Brain injury is perhaps the most dreaded of all the complications afflicting critically ill infants in the NICU. The neonatal brain, by virtue of its immaturity, is susceptible to a variety of medical insults. While the past thirty years have witnessed truly astonishing advances in our understanding of premature infants and in our ability to care for smaller and more premature newborns, some of the long term complications of brain injury – cognitive and behavioral deficits, cerebral palsy and seizures – have remained stubbornly resistant to prevention.
MANA physicians and scientists are attacking the problem of neonatal brain injury on several fronts:
- Investigating the Therapeutic Potential of Stem Cells for Treating Neonatal Neurological Injury: Using an animal model of ischemic brain injury developed by MANA scientists, physician-scientists and our PhD colleagues are studying the use of stem cells to treat ischemic brain injury.
- Identification of Novel Therapeutic Agents: Scientists in our laboratories are attempting to identify pharmacologic agents which may prevent or mitigate brain injury using in vitro neuronal cell culture techniques.
- Translational Studies of Pharmacotherapeutics in the Prevention of Brain Injury: MANA clinicians are evaluating the potential efficacy of methylxanthines and sildenafil in the treatment of hypoxic and ischemic brain injury in an animal model.
- Neonatal Biobank: The MANA research team has established one of the first Neonatal Biobanks to enhance our ability to study neonatal brain injury. Serum specimens obtained in the course of treatment in the NICU are being collected for analysis of biomarkers which are predictive of brain injury. This could become one of the most valuable resources in our struggle to identify the factors which make our patients vulnerable to the devastating complications of prematurity.