Birth defects from drinking and from smoking while pregnant are among the most preventable, yet they are among the most devastating and costly. While it’s one thing to tell women to stop, it’s quite another for some to do it. According to Mahmoud Ahmed, director of UTMB’s laboratory of maternal and fetal pharmacology, once you become a nicotine addict or an alcoholic, “it’s a whole different story.” He says addicted smokers are particularly hard cases. UTMB researcher Tatiana Nanovskaya is trying to find out if drugs like Zyban that help people stop smoking might harm the fetus. At a laboratory located down the hall from the delivery room at UTMB’s John Sealy Hospital, researchers receive a mother’s placenta just moments after birth. The researchers then attach tubes to the placenta, mimicking the flow of blood, and inject the drugs to see how much passes through the placenta, which provides food and oxygen to the fetus. Depending on what they find, doctors might eventually start prescribing the stop-smoking drugs to pregnant women. The video begins at the 3:27 mark.