Virtually all Illinois residents know that infants born prematurely often face difficult odds and have increased risk of suffering various injuries. This is to be expected, as the very idea of a “pre” term birth is that the child was not given the preferred amount of time to develop in the womb before being born--the underdevelopment can have many ramifications.
Fortunately, medical researchers never just accept that certain injuries may arise--they work to find solutions. However, before finding cures or understanding preventative steps, professionals must first appreciate exactly what causes each injury. Figuring out what is causing harm is sometimes even more difficult than finding a solution.
According to reports from the American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, one group of researchers is working to better under the mechanisms behind preterm brain injuries with the ultimate goal of developing treatments for those at risk.
The New Birth Injury Research
The root of the new research is evidence from testing in mice that an inflammatory protein produced by a pregnant mother can cause brain damage in a developing fetus. The protein usually produces a response by the body in order to fight off an infection. In the study, the injuries involved a lack of “dendrites” in the brain. These dendrites attach to neurons and create synapses helping in neuron communication. This includes the “fingerlike” connections that are so crucial for many different cognitive functions.
Interestingly, in the past research believed that the protein caused a premature birth which then led to brain injury, But after more fine-tuned investigation, they believe that the protein only causes the brain injury, not a preterm birth itself.
These distinctions are critical, because they can make all the differences in uncovering treatment options. In the case of this protein, researchers noted that an anti-inflammatory drug worked on the mice to quell the brain injury and prevent damage--but not prevent the preterm birth. The drug is currently approved by the FDA to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers noted that there are no known side-effect risks for pregnant woman, and so the drug may eventually prove incredibly useful for those babies at risk of this preterm neurological damage. Those involved in this particular study noting that use in humans remains a bit off. Naturally, considerable caution is exercised before implemented new treatments that may affect a human mother and child.
The medical experts working on these matters are not limiting their work only to this particular inflammatory protein issue. Researchers note that they are taking a wide look at all of the many mechanisms involved in an attempt to understand the various factors at play in both fetal brain injuries and preterm births themselves. As already noted, the experts were surprised to learn that the brain injury and early birth may have separate underlying causes. This differed from the expectation that something about the early birth itself caused the brain damage.
As the above discussion shows, there is immense complexity to all of these issues. If your child suffered an injury during birth and you have questions about whether it is appropriate to pursue legal accountability, please contact the injury attorneys at our firm to see how we can help.
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