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Dev Neurosci. 2009;31(5):437-51. doi: 10.1159/000232562. Epub 2009 Aug 14.

Neuroprotective properties of melatonin in a model of birth asphyxia in the spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus).

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  • 1Fetal and Neonatal Research Group, Department of Physiology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.


Birth asphyxia is associated with disturbed development of the neonatal brain. In this study, we determined if low-dose melatonin (0.1 mg/kg/day), administered to the mother over 7 days at the end of pregnancy, could protect against the effects of birth asphyxia in a precocial species - the spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus). At 37 days of gestation (term is 38-39 days), pups were subjected to birth asphyxia (7.5 min uterine ischemia) and compared to Cesarean section-delivered controls. At 24 h of age, birth asphyxia had increased markers of CNS inflammation (microglia, macrophage infiltration) and apoptosis (activated caspase-3, fractin) in cortical gray matter, which were reduced to control levels by prior maternal melatonin treatment. Melatonin may be an effective prophylactic agent for use in late pregnancy to protect against hypoxic-ischemic brain injury at birth.

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