Preventive cure for motor impairments from fetal brain hypoxic injury

Sept. 12, 2013 College News - The Medical College of Wisconsin and Northshore University Healthsystem in Evanston IL, received a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study motor impairments in children.

Jeannette Vásquez-Vivar PhD, Associate Professor of Biophysics and Associate Director of the Redox Biology Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Sidhartha Tan, MD, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Northshore University Healthsystem and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, are the primary investigators of the study, which tests a promising strategy aimed at preventing motor disabilities in children.

When brain injury by hypoxia (A lack of oxygen) occurs as a baby grows in the womb, there is an increased risk for acquired disabilities. Using surrogate markers of oxidant damage and neuronal dysfunction by magnetic resonance imaging, researchers will study what happens to brain cells in the early critical phase of injury, which seems to determine the course of events leading to movement disorders such as cerebral palsy.

The investigators will test ways by which tetrahydrobiopterin, a small molecule needed for neurotransmitters and nitric oxide synthesis, reduces neuronal injury. These studies are aimed at validating the use of tetrahydrobiopterin in the prevention of fetal brain damage in pregnancies at high risk of hypoxia.

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