Neonatology Research and Advances
Recent research breakthroughs have made it possible for babies born very early or with complex conditions to survive. However, many of these babies must cope with significant lifelong mental and physical challenges.
Our neonatologists are leading pioneering research efforts to improve the outcome for these tiny patients so that they don’t just live – they thrive.
New Therapies to Reduce Brain Injury
Extremely premature infants and newborns who have asphyxia, stroke or other neurological stresses are at severe risk of permanent brain injury or death. Even when not fatal, these injuries can lead to long-term problems like cerebral palsy, developmental problems, hearing or visual impairment or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Neonatologist Dr. Sandra “Sunny” Juul is working to find better ways to treat and protect the newborn brain. She is the principal investigator in an ongoing study using a hormone, recombinant erythropoietin (rEpo), combined with hypothermia to treat term babies who had a loss of oxygen to the brain at birth (asphyxia). Epo is a hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.
Extremely low birthweight babies are most vulnerable to brain injury in their first week or two of life. Juul is in the planning stages of a nationwide, 11-center study to look at the potential for high doses of rEpo to protect the brains of these premature infants.
Read more about Juul's research.
Studying – and Reducing – Newborn Stress
Dr. Christine Gleason (at left) and Dr. Sunny Juul
Drs. Christine Gleason and Sandra Juul are studying the long-term effects of severe neonatal stress and pain on the developing brain. They are also looking at the long-term effects on the brain of narcotics such as morphine, which are frequently used to reduce neonatal pain.
Caregivers in the NICU work to reduce the environmental stresses in the NICU and use nondrug comfort measures. These include “nesting” the baby in the incubator and keeping the noise level down.
The goal, says Gleason, is to find the safest, most effective ways to both decrease stress in the NICU and to relieve pain with medicine.