According to a new study from the University of Auckland, published in a leading journal, Brain, has found that severe brain injury that develops gradually post preterm births, causing the incidemces of cerebral palsy, may be treatable. More than third of cases of cerebral palsy are still related to being born very prematurely. Clinical studies have proved that severe injury can develop several weeks post 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 research fellow Dr Christopher Lear, lead author of the new study. “Just the concept that it might be treatable is revolutionary.”
In an animal model of the study, the research team from the University of Auckland proved that there was major inflammation prior to the development of injury. Mainly, giving the well-established anti-inflammatory drug, Etanercept (also called ‘Enbrel’) three days after a time period of oxygen distress was able to completely prevent major injury from developing post three weeks of recovery. Professor Laura Bennet, said, "Virtually all proposed treatments so far need to be started within the first six hours of life. This is often not realistic when families are overwhelmed by events around birth."
Professor Bennet, said, "A therapeutic window of at least three days is exceptionally long. Much 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 findings will one day lead to a new treatment in humans to prevent cerebral palsy." The team of researchers are from the Fetal Physiology and Neuroscience Group in the Department of Physiology. The research was provided financial support by a 2017 programme grant of USD 4,919,534 from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).