A new supplement that could cut the risk of spina bifida is being trialled during pregnancy.
Expectant mothers are already encouraged to take folic acid during the first three months of pregnancy to lessen the odds of a baby experiencing neural tube defects, including spina bifida.
This is a congenital defect of the spine in which part of the spinal cord is exposed through a gap in the backbone, often causing paralysis of the lower limbs.
But information indicates folic acid cannot stop occurrence of all these conditions and some disorders seem to be unresponsive to it.
Now, researchers from London's Great Ormond Street Hospital are investigating whether women could take a single daily pill combining the new supplement and folic acid.
Folic acid may not always succeed because sometimes a genetic blockage happens affecting how it is metabolised in cells.
The new supplement includes nucleotides, which can bypass this obstruction - boosting the impact of folic acid and ensuring the growth of vital cells.
Tests on mice with the new supplement saw a 85% fall in the occurrence of neural tube defects.
Some disorders that are presently unresponsive to folic acid were also stopped.
Nicholas Greene, professor of developmental neurobiology at the Institute of Child Health (ICH), said: "We are still in the early stages of this research, but we hope that these promising results in mice can eventually be replicated with human neural tube defects."
The study is published in the journal Brain.
Copyright Press Association 2013