Women who give birth to infants with neural-tube defects (NTDs) might have a defect in the enzyme, methionine synthase, researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) reported.

Since high doses of folic acid, taken shortly after conception, have been proven to help prevent NTDs, and since women who had NTD infants also tended to have lower levels of vitamin B12, researchers investigated bodily chemical reactions requiring both components.

The conversion of homocysteine to the amino acid, methionine, by methionine synthase, was the only such reaction. Mothers of NTD infants studied, had higher levels of unconverted homocysteine, proving the enzyme defect.

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