New treatment may reduce risk of brain injury in premature infants
Children born before the thirty-second gestational week are at greater risk than other children of developing serious brain injury. A thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy describes various treatments which alter inflammatory processes and may therefore reduce the development of brain injury. It is hoped that these discoveries can result in clinical treatment strategies for neonates.
In Sweden, approximately 200 children annually are affected by brain injury occurring during the antenatal and perinatal period, known as perinatal brain injury. Complications, including reduced blood and oxygen supply to the foetus and/or infections of the uterus, are thought to be the cause of many brain injuries, which in turn may lead to neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, learning difficulties and epilepsy. Premature infants, i.e. children born before the 32nd gestational week, run a much greater risk of being affected by these disabilities. Since more and more premature infants now survive, this is a growing problem.
“If we could identify the mechanisms behind such injuries, and successfully treat the cause, it would mean a richer life for many children," says Pernilla Svedin, M.Sc., author of the thesis
Several pathological processes contribute to perinatal brain injury, which complicates treatment. The thesis focuses on the inflammatory processes arising in the brain after injury is sustained, and how various treatment strategies affect the development of the injury. The thesis examines three potentially neuroprotective preparations; N-acetylcysteine (NAC), melatonin, and glycine 2-methyl proline glutamate (G-2mPE). NAC and melatonin are two substances known to counteract the formation of free radicals. Free radicals are produced in the brain following hypoxia and contribute to DNA and protein injury.
The protective effects of NAC, melatonin and G-2mPE have been tested as treatment of brain injury in young rats. Treatment with NAC resulted in an up to 78 percent reduction in brain injury compared to an untreated group. In the groups treated with melatonin and G-2mPE a measurable reduction in injury was also observed, but not as pronounced as in treatment with NAC.
“This might mean that if newborn infants affected by oxygen deficiency and/or infections received any of these preparations the risk of the infant developing more serious brain injury would be reduced. I hope that in the future these discoveries can result in clinical treatment strategies for these infants,” says Pernilla Svedin.
The thesis was written by:
Pernilla Svedin, M. Sc., telephone: +46 (0)703-097 264, e-mail: [email protected]
Professor Carina Mallard, telephone: (031-786) 3498, e-mail: [email protected]
Thesis for doctorate of medicine at Sahlgrenska Academy, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology.
Title of thesis: Inflammation and neuroprotective strategies in the immature brain following hypoxic-ischemic brain injury
The thesis has been defended.