Medicine: Helping Babies in the Womb

A test for toxicity; a prenatal use for vitamins

The use of thalidomide to relieve anxiety and morning sickness in pregnant women resulted in the birth of thousands of children with cruel deformities, from flipper-like limbs to malformations of the heart. The drug, it is now known, produces a similar effect in the offspring of monkeys and rabbits. But during the premarket tests of thalidomide in the 1950s, it was mainly studied in laboratory rats because they are easy to handle and relatively cheap. No evidence of damage to offspring of rats given the...

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