Japan team uncovers thalidomide mystery

Mar 12, 2010

Japanese scientists have uncovered how thalidomide led to deformities in children born to mothers taking the drug in the 1950s and 1960s, according to a study released Friday.

The researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have now unlocked the mechanism by which -- an anti-nausea drug given to that turned into one of the worst pharmaceutical disasters in history -- triggered the deformities in developing fetuses.

"Though scientists have proposed a number of hypotheses, the drug's mechanism of action has been a mystery until now," the researchers said.

In the study published in the March 12 issue of the journal Science, the researchers concluded that thalidomide causes deformities in developing limbs by inhibiting production of a protein called cereblon, which in turn produces enzymes needed for limb development.

The study, which used chick and zebrafish embryos, may lead to the development of safer alternatives for thalidomide, which is now being used for treatments of some cancers and for , the researchers said.

Thalidomide was launched in October 1957 and was sold in nearly 50 countries before being withdrawn little more than four years later after babies began showing the severe side effects of the drug.

Thalidomide, when taken by pregnant women, stunted the growth of fetal arms and legs, and also put the at risk of ear and eye defects, and various other internal defects, including those of the heart, kidneys and digestive tract.

Around 10,000 children around the world were born with deformities, such as the absence of arms and legs, as a result of thalidomide.

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Japan may regulate thalidomide

Jun 13, 2006

Doctors in Japan will be required to register patients who are using the drug thalidomide under proposed regulations, the Japan Times reported.

Solving the 50-year-old puzzle of thalidomide

Nov 17, 2009

Research into the controversial drug thalidomide reveals that the mechanism through which the drug causes limb defects is the same process which causes it to damage internal organs and other tissues. The article, published ...

New insights into thalidomide-birth defect episode

Nov 10, 2008

Scientists in Germany have discovered why the medication thalidomide appeared safe in animal tests before going on the market 50 years ago, only to cause perhaps the most extensive outbreak of drug-induced birth defects in ...

Thalidomide film to air in Germany

May 19, 2007

A film about the drug thalidomide, which caused thousands of children to be born disabled, will air on German television.

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

physpuppy
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2010
For background in this topic, the article in Wilkipedia is interesting:
http://en.wikiped...lidomide

More news stories

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...