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Birth Injury

Reversing Brain Damage in Newborns

June 04, 2021

Although no therapy or medicine has yet become the standard treatment for reversing newborn brain damage, some treatments and discoveries have shown promise in restoring normal function. These include hypothermic treatment, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, prevention of the production of hyaluronic acid fragments, and awakening of stem cells.

Options That Could Treat Newborn Brain Damage

Brain damage in newborn babies is often a result of medical malpractice. Mistakes made by doctors, such as a delayed Cesarean section or improper response to fetal distress, could lead to brain damage. In Chicago, birth injury attorneys help people gather evidence and file lawsuits to help them recover compensation to cover the cost of treatment and ongoing care their children need.

There is evidence that suggests that newborn brain damage can be reversed with the appropriate treatment.

Hypothermic Treatment

Hypothermic therapy involves cooling a baby’s body temperature for a few days to slow down brain damage that is suspected or has been detected in a baby soon after birth. The treatment has appeared to slow the damage that collects in the brain after injury. Hypothermic treatment has reversed brain damage entirely in some cases, making parents of babies with brain damage more hopeful of their children making a full recovery.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been shown to have a positive effect on treating traumatic brain injuries. It involves the use of higher than normal atmospheric pressure oxygen to cure diseases. It almost entirely reversed the brain damage that a toddler had suffered after drowning in cold water. 

After the drowning accident, the toddler had no speech, responsiveness to commands, or gait. She also exhibited constant head shaking and squirming. After 39 hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions, the girl had a greater level of speech than pre-drowning, close to regular motor function, assisted gait, and normal cognition. She also discontinued all medications and improved in almost all neurological exam abnormalities.

Hyaluronic Acid Fragments Prevention

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) have identified the buildup of hyaluronic acid to block the brain’s repair process following injury. Hyaluronic acid is a large molecule in the body that builds up in the lesions within the white matter of the brain. The accumulation stops the repair process and significantly disrupts the brain’s overall function. 

The researchers investigated how hyaluronic acid blocked the repair process. They showed that although the lesions in the brain break down the molecule into different sizes, a specific fragment selectively blocks the development of the cells needed for brain repair. The researchers traced the pathway of the molecule that inhibited brain repair and found that it also activated FoxO3.

FoxO3 is a protein that was found to block critical genes that trigger the brain repair process. It essentially hijacked the immune system’s molecular machinery and redirected it to shut down the repair process after brain injury. The adverse effects of FoxO3 on the brain white matter have paved the way for more research into treatments that can fully reverse the symptoms and complications of brain injuries for individuals of all ages.

By blocking the production of the molecule, an effective pathway can be created to enable the brain’s regenerative process to continue. Consequently, the long-term mental and physical disabilities linked to neurological conditions may be limited. Some scientists are soon hoping to test the efficacy of pharmaceuticals that prevent hyaluronic acid fragments from being generated. Therefore, it could only be a matter of time before new and more effective treatments are developed for children and adults with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, dementia, and other brain conditions.

Awakening of Stem Cells

Scientists from the University of Cambridge discovered stem cells in the brain known as G2 quiescent stem cells that have a high potential for promoting brain repair after brain disease or injury. Stem cells can produce all the brain cells but are usually kept dormant in cellular sleep, which is referred to as quiescence. Cells have to be awakened from quiescence for them to generate new cells.

The G2 quiescent stem cells were found to have greater regenerative potential than other stem cells that had been previously identified. The G2 stem cells make neurons and glia, the key cell types in a person’s brain, much faster when awakened than other known types of stem cells. The brain is poor at self-repair. The newly discovered stem cells can help enhance its ability to repair itself if activated from quiescence.

The researchers identified the gene that makes the cells dormant by studying Drosophila (fruit fly). Fruit flies are useful for understanding human biology because 60% of people’s genes that are linked to diseases are found in the flies as well. The researchers identified the tribbles gene to regulate G2 stem cells selectively. Therefore, the target of future research is identifying drug-like molecules that block the gene and awaken the stem cells.

About The Author

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Attorney Jeffrey M. Goldberg has spent his entire professional career handling cases involving birth injury, medical malpractice, product liability and related accidents.