Monday, 24 April 2017

Early clues from placenta may predict future life threatening lung problems in premature infants

Professor Arvind Sehgal
New research from Monash University’s Professor of Pediatrics, Arvind Sehgal has provided early clues from the placenta, which may indicate which infants among this high risk cohort might go on to develop BPD associated PH during the weeks or months following birth. This opens avenues for individualized ventilator management, watching out for early signs of this complication, early echocardiographic diagnosis and therapy to improve lung function.

Each year in Australia, approximately 500 infants are born at less than 25 weeks gestation. These infants are very premature and experience a number of life-threatening issues.

More than one third of these babies develop bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) - also known as chronic lung disease -combined with chronic pulmonary hypertension (PH), or high blood pressure, in the lungs. These infants experience long and repeated hospitalisations, requiring home oxygen for up to two years and an increased risk of mortality because of a vulnerability to infection.

Professor Sehgal and his research team, including pathologist Dr Yuen Chan, tested the placentas of 56 mothers of very preterm babies (<28 weeks gestation) and noted peculiar histopathology markers which predicted ‘subsequent’ complications of BPD associated PH. These findings will be presented at the prestigious Society for Pediatric Research Annual Meeting, being held in San Francisco, USA in May 2017.

“The ability to predict which infants may become very sick will provide critical information for doctors managing these premature infants,” Professor Sehgal said.

Professor Sehgal’s research group is the first in Australasia to demonstrate that the placenta contains a treasure trove of relevant information which can be used to improve the outlook for these premature infants.

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