Brain injuries that are severe and develop slowly following preterm births and can cause the symptoms of cerebral palsy, might be treatable, a new study by at the University of Auckland finds.
A third of the patients with cerebral palsy are due to being born early. Studies on clinical studies have revealed that severe injuries can develop several weeks after birth. “The current thinking is that this form of brain injury is so severe that there is no point trying to understand it, let alone treat it,” says senior researcher Dr Christopher Lear, lead author on the study. “Just the concept that it might be treatable is revolutionary.”
Researchers from the University of Auckland team showed using an animal model that there was a significant local inflammation prior to the injury was developed.
In addition, administering the well-known anti-inflammatory drug Etanercept (also called “Enbrel”) three days following an oxygen deprivation period was able to stop serious injury from forming after three weeksof recovery. The study has been published in the top journal called the Brain. “Virtually all proposed treatments so far need to be started within the first six hours of life,” adds professor Laura Bennet. “This is often not realistic when families are overwhelmed by events around birth.”
“A therapeutic timeframe of at least 3 days is extremely long. It is imperative to conduct more research before this method is tested on humans, but this vast window of time for treatment offers us a real chance that these results may one day result in a new treatment for people to prevent cerebral palsy.” Professor Bennet.The team comes from the Fetal Physiology and Neuroscience Group within the Department of Physiology.
The research was funded by a programme grant in 2017 of $4,919,534 by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).