Gene linked to brain damage in premature infants

Premature labor is linked with inflammation in the mother or baby due to infection and can cause damage to the brain leading to cerebral palsy, autism and developmental delays.
By Amy Wallace   |   Sept. 5, 2017 at 12:23 PM
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Sept. 5 (UPI) -- A new study at King's College London has identified a gene believed to be related to brain damage in premature infants.

Premature labor is linked with inflammation in the mother or baby due to infection and can cause damage to the brain -- leading to cerebral palsy, autism and developmental delays in up to 30 percent of preterm babies.

The study, published today in Nature Communications, analyzed the role of microglial cells that control the immune response in the brain and how it responds to inflammation associated with preterm labor.

Researchers found the gene DLG4 that is believed to be involved in controlling the inflammatory process in the brain.

The study, a collaboration between King's College London, Inserm and Paris Diderot University and Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, involved a genomic analysis of more than 500 infant brain scans and mouse models of inflammation to identify differences in the way DLG4 was expressed in microglia in both mouse models and brain scans.

"We have shown that the DLG4 gene is expressed differently in microglia when a brain has been damaged by inflammation," Professor David Edwards, director of the Center for the Developing Brain at King's College London, said in a press release.

"In developing this work, we hope to provide a new avenue to study and understand how this inflammation and subsequent brain damage is caused so that scientists can work towards more effective treatments for diseases such as autism and cerebral palsy, by stopping or even preventing the inflammation associated with pre-term birth."

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