Brain development in moderate to late preterm infants – exploring the relationship between perinatal inflammatory marker profiles and brain development disruptions
Each year, 12.6 million babies worldwide are born when the pregnancy is between 32-36 weeks. This is too early and called moderate-late preterm (MLPT). MLPT babies are more likely to have problems with development and behavior than term-born babies. However, MLPT babies are mostly seen as healthy babies and not screened for these problems when they grow up. Consequently, the problems of MLPT babies are often identified at an age when therapies become less effective, and MLPT children and families may need to deal with the problems for the rest of their lives. If we understand how the problems develop, we can improve the care and health outcomes of MLPT babies.
A disruption of normal brain development may contribute to the later problems of MLPT babies. We will look at the role of inflammation in this disruption. Inflammation is our body’s defense against potentially harmful triggers, which can include infection and pain. However, inflammation can also damage cells that are important for normal brain development. A relationship exists between inflammation during pregnancy and after birth and disruption of brain development in babies born before 32 weeks. We will explore whether a similar relationship exists in MLPT babies.
State-of-the-art, non-invasive Magnetic Resonance Imaging will be used to study how the brain of MLPT babies develops. We will also measure proteins in leftover blood of pregnant mothers and their MLPT babies. The proteins will tell us about inflammation. We aim to find clues in inflammation that help us to identify MLPT babies at high-risk for disruption of brain development and later problems at a younger age. Our results will guide doctors and policymakers to make important improvements to the care of MLPT babies. The care improvements will lead to healthier brains and better lifelong outcomes for the large population of MLPT babies.
Lara Leijser , University of Calgary
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