The beneficial effect of the '1-drink-a-day' lifestyle is suggested by studies of cardiovascular health, and this recommendation is increasingly followed in many countries. The main objective of this study was to determine whether this pattern of ethanol use would be detrimental to a pregnant woman. We exposed a primary culture of rat cerebellum from embryonic day 17 (corresponding to second trimester in humans) to ethanol at a concentration of 17.6 mM which is roughly equivalent to one glass of wine. Acutely, there was no change in cell viability after 5 or 8 days of exposure relative to control. By 11 days, a reduction in the number of viable cells was observed without an accompanying change in caspase-3 activity (marker of apoptotic cell death), suggesting changes in cell proliferation. As the proportion of nestin-positive cells was higher in the ethanol-treated cultures after 5 days, we hypothesized that an increase in differentiation to neurons would compensate for the ongoing neuronal death. However, there were limits to this compensatory ability as the relative proportion of nestin-positive cells was decreased after 11 days. To further illustrate the negative long-term effects of this ethanol dose, cultures were exposed for 30 days. After this period, virtually no neurons or myelinating oligodendrocytes were present in the ethanol-treated cultures. In conclusion, chronic exposure to ethanol, even at small doses, dramatically and persistently affects normal development.
Pickering, C., Wicher, G., Rosendahl, S., Schiöth, H. B., & Fex Svenningsen, Å. (2010). A Low Ethanol Dose Affects all Types of Cells in Mixed Long-Term Embryonic Cultures of the Cerebellum. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 106(6), 472-478. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1742-7843.2009.00528.x