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Groundbreaking research from UCC

Wednesday, 9th January, 2019 5:03pm

Cork researchers have made a breakthrough in diagnosing and treating brain injury in newborn babies, it was revealed this week.

Researchers at Ireland’s dedicated fetal and neonatal research centre, Infant Centre at UCC, have identified two biochemical signals in the umbilical cord that can be used to help to detect birth-related brain injury.

Lack of oxygen to the brain at birth affects almost 200 babies in Ireland each year and results in death or disability in over two million infants each year globally. The condition is known as Hypoxic Ischematic Encephalopathy (HIE) and can leave newborns with permanent neurological damage or cerebral palsy.

HIE can be difficult to detect in newborns and Infant researchers have said that early intervention and treatment is vital to improving outcomes and reducing the impact and severity of the brain damage.

Principal Investigator at Infant and UCC Professor Deirdre Murray has led this breakthrough research in the area of HIE and perinatal asphyxia, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association recently. The findings were published in the JAMA Neurology and validated the involvement of two microRNAs in HIE.

Prof Murray said: “The results from this initial study are very promising. In two different cohorts, across two countries we are seeing the same patterns. The next task will be automating this analysis so that it can be done rapidly at the cot side. We are still researching these microRNA to understand if they have an important role in the cascade of injury which occurs in HIE.

“They are tiny nuclear codes which act like passwords to control the production of proteins in the cell. Some of these proteins may have important roles. We have now been funded by the Irish Research Council to examine whether manipulating these microRNA could reduce or prevent brain injury. There is still a lot of work to be done and we look forward to progressing this important research.”

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