Brain injury in premature infants can be treated even after birth – ScienceDaily

New research from the University of Auckland has found that severe brain injuries that develop slowly after premature birth, and which cause the likes of cerebral palsy, may be treatable.

More than a third of cerebral palsy cases are still associated with very premature birth. Clinical studies have shown that severe infection can appear several weeks after birth. “Current thinking is that this form of brain injury is so severe that there is no point in trying to understand it, let alone treat it,” says lead researcher Dr. Christopher Lear, lead author of the new study. “Just the idea that it can be cured is a revolutionary concept.”

The University of Auckland team showed, in an animal model, that there was severe local inflammation before the infection developed.

Crucially, administration of the well-established anti-inflammatory drug Etanercept (also known as “Enbrel”) after a three-day period of oxygen deprivation was able to almost completely prevent severe infection from developing after three weeks of recovery. The article was just published in a leading journal, brain. “Virtually all proposed treatments to date should be started within the first six hours of life,” says Professor Laura Bennett. “This is often unrealistic when families are overwhelmed by events around childbirth.”

“The therapeutic period of at least three days is exceptionally long. More research is needed before this approach can be tested in humans, but this remarkably wide window for treatment gives us real hope that these results will one day lead to a new treatment in humans to prevent Cerebral palsy,” says Professor Bennett.

The team is from the Physiology and Neuroscience group in the Department of Physiology.

This research was supported by a 2017 program grant of $4,919,534 from New Zealand Health Research Council (HRC).

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Materials Introduction of University of Auckland. Note: Content can be modified according to style and length.

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