Estrogen aids preterm-birth lung function

March 12, 2009 at 3:15 PM
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DALLAS, March 12 (UPI) -- A U.S. study of primates suggests estrogen might become a new postnatal therapy to improve lung function and other outcomes in preterm infants.

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Professor Philip Shaul, the study's senior author, said the research was conducted at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research Primate Center in San Antonio.

"Ironically, a hormone that has received great attention as a potential means to optimize the health of older women may be a beneficial treatment for humans during the earliest stages of life," said Shaul. The research was part of an investigation into the causes and treatments for bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a primary complication of premature birth that develops in the preterm lung following ventilation and oxygen support.

Shaul and his colleagues found administering estrogen to premature primates accomplished several things, including creating a greater abundance of nitric oxide synthases in their lungs, resulting in markedly enhanced lung function, and a significantly reduced need for ventilation support.

That, said Shaul, represents an important step in lessening the lung injury that causes BPD in humans and also prevent slow blood pressure, which is a common problem in preterm infants.

The study is detailed in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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