Researchers solve mystery behind baby's first breath

(Medical Xpress)—Queen's University researchers have discovered how a key artery in a newborn baby's heart constricts and eventually closes when the baby takes its first breath and adjusts to the shock of being born. The discovery will give doctors new treatment options for problems such as blue babies.

"Before birth, every human has a ductus arteriosus artery. When the ductus fails to constrict, it's bad," says Stephen Archer, who was recently appointed head of the Department of Medicine at Queen's.

When a baby is born, the artery senses the high level of oxygen from the first breath and immediately constricts, allowing babies to breath oxygen through their lungs rather than receiving oxygen from their mother's placenta.

Dr. Archer and his team discovered the muscular layer of the ductus arteriosus is responsible for the constriction. Mitochondria – a part of a cell that produces energy – creates a signaling molecule that interacts with and enzymes to make the ductus constrict.

"That first breath is like turning on a metabolic furnace," says Dr. Archer.

The study also discovered that a drug called MDIVI-1 can stop the constriction – which could have clinical benefits because sometimes it is necessary to keep the ductus open in infants awaiting complicated heart surgeries.

Dr. Archer has been working for the past 15 years trying to discover how the oxygen is sensed and how the constriction process in the ductus arteriosus artery works.

The study, conducted with collaborators from the University of Chicago and the University of Nebraska, has been published in the academic journal .

More information: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23334860

Related Stories

Research findings breathe new life into lung disease

Oct 24, 2012

It turns out the muscle cells on the outside of blood vessels have been wrongly accused for instigating lung disease. New research shows that while these muscle cells are responsible for constricting or dilating the blood ...

Scans could aid delivery decisions

Apr 16, 2012

Scientists are using MRI scans to see if they can determine when best to deliver babies that are not growing as fast as they should in the womb.

Recommended for you

Testing time for stem cells

35 minutes ago

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

19 hours ago

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments