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Pediatr Res. 2006 Jan;59(1):50-5. Epub 2005 Dec 2.

Elucidating the early signal transduction pathways leading to fetal brain injury in preterm birth.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104-6142, USA.


Adverse neurologic outcome, including cerebral palsy, is a significant contributor to long-term morbidity in preterm neonates. However, the mechanisms leading to brain injury in the setting of a preterm birth are poorly understood. In the last decade, there has been a growing body of evidence correlating infection or inflammation with preterm birth. The presence of intrauterine inflammation significantly increases the risk for adverse neurologic outcome in the neonate. These studies were performed to elucidate the early signal transduction pathways activated in the fetal brain that may result in long-term neurologic injury. Using our mouse model of localized intrauterine inflammation, the activation of TH1/TH2 pathways in the placenta, fetus corpus, fetal liver, and fetal brain was investigated. Additional studies determined whether activation of TH1/TH2 pathways could promote cell death and alter glial development. Real-time PCR studies demonstrated that a robust TH1/TH2 response occurs rapidly in the fetal brain after exposure to intrauterine inflammation. The cytokine response in the fetus and placenta was not significantly correlated with the response in the fetal brain. Along with an immune response, cell death pathways were activated early in the fetal brain in response to intrauterine LPS. Implicating TH1/TH2 and cell death pathways in permanent brain injury are our findings of an increase in GFAP mRNA and protein as well as a loss of pro-oligodendrocytes. With increased understanding of the mechanisms by which inflammation promotes brain injury in the preterm neonate, identification of potential targets to limit adverse neonatal outcomes becomes possible.

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