The health of premature infants has been helped considerably by researchers who have been working on a study in rats that started in 1979. The research shows that the health conditions of premature infants can be improved significantly by introducing certain massage techniques.
Using these stimulation techniques, it’s been found that premature infants have been able to be released from the ICU an average of six days earlier than when these techniques weren’t used. Not only is this beneficial for infant health, it’s also a significant cost savings for insurance companies- a win-win for everyone.
Interestingly enough, when the research study started, the original questions that were being asked had nothing to do with premature infants. Instead, researchers were trying to determine how applying moderate pressure to rats could affect a particular brain growth enzyme. Later, it was found that this stimulation also improved brain growth in premature infants. This isn’t the first time that research studies have led to results that led scientists in a different direction. Read about more research with unexpected results here- including Viagra and new medication to improve recovery after heart attacks.
This research has earned a Golden Goose Award, which will be awarded near the end of September 2014. This is a great recognition- and also a reminder that the support of basic research is extremely important! Who knows where it could lead next?
Read more about it here: http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2014/09/11/golden-goose-award-presented-duke-researchers-rat-study
Premature babies often have lasting lung problems, but hopefully that won’t always be the case. Researchers are working on bigger and better treatments- and there’s some good news!
Currently, mothers of premature babies often receive steroid injections before delivery to help the baby’s lungs develop. After the baby’s birth, surfactant can also be administered to coat the lungs and facilitate oxygen exchange. And while these treatments have saved the lives of many babies and are incredible medical advances, researchers are working on bigger and better ideas.
By using stems cells and regenerative medicine, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario are developing techniques that could safely repair damaged lungs of premature infants! They’re using stem cells that make blood vessels, and in addition to providing hope to parents of preemies, this could also potentially help in the treatment of chronic lung diseases in adults. Research in animals has shown promising results, and clinical trials could start in just a few years. Read more about it here:
For parents of premature babies, the most obvious roadblock would seem to be problems with lung function. But a devastating stomach condition called necrotizing enterocolitis, which causes tissue death in the intestine, can affect preemies at about 2 weeks of age and has a mortality rate of about 30%! Necrotizing enterocolitis happens more commonly in formula-fed babies than in breast-fed babies. But recently, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC have discovered that adding sodium nitrate (naturally occurring in high levels in breast milk) to formula fed to premature mice lowers the incidence of developing this condition. Sodium nitrate helps to correct blood flow issues that are common in preemies due to higher amounts of specific proteins that cause decreased blood flow and tissue death. This could be a major breakthrough in helping to reduce the risks to premature babies all over the world. Just another example of mice helping to save lives… and precious ones, at that!