Estrogen activates critical lung genes to improve lung function following preterm birth

March 12, 2009

Estrogen may be a new postnatal therapy to improve lung function and other outcomes in preterm infants, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in an animal study.

"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 Dr. Philip Shaul, professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and the study's senior author.

The study, conducted in preterm primates, appears in the March issue of the Medicine. The study was performed at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research Primate Center in San Antonio as part of a National Institutes of Health-funded consortium investigating causes and treatments for bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a devastating primary complication of that develops in the preterm following ventilation and .

Sufficient production of in fetal and newborn lungs is necessary for the lungs to develop and function properly. During the latter part of pregnancy the placenta produces large amounts of that enters the fetal circulation. Another spike of estrogen occurs during labor. In prior studies in the investigators found that estrogen activates the genes in encoding nitric oxide synthases, enzymes that produce nitric oxide. That research suggested treatment with the hormone may achieve the same results in the intact lung. - nearly 50,000 are born in the U.S. each year - miss out on this exposure to estrogen in the womb and, as a consequence, may experience respiratory problems because they lack nitric oxide.

Dr. Shaul and his colleagues found that administering estrogen to premature primates accomplished several things.

First, the treated animals had greater abundance of nitric oxide synthases in their lungs, resulting in markedly enhanced and a significantly reduced need for ventilation support. This represents an important step in lessening the lung injury that causes BPD in humans, Dr. Shaul said. It also prevented low blood pressure, which is a common problem in preterm infants.

Estrogen also caused the closure of the ductus arteriosus, a shunt that connects the pulmonary artery to the aorta during the primates' fetal development to allow blood flow to bypass the fetus' fluid-filled lungs. In the case of full-term infants, the ductus arteriosus normally closes at the time of birth once breathing is established. In premature infants, however, it frequently fails to close resulting in further impairment in lung and heart function.

"With just one therapeutic intervention multiple benefits occurred in the lungs and the circulation," Dr. Shaul said. "Estrogen-based therapies to prevent BPD and other complications of prematurity should be further developed, and it is our hope to begin clinical trials in the near future."

Dr. Shaul said that future studies also would need to evaluate other potential targets of estrogen in the lung in addition to nitric oxide synthases and possible effects of postnatal estrogen treatment on nonpulmonary development, including those related to the later reproductive health of the child.

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Two lung diseases killed 3.6 million in 2015: study

August 17, 2017
The two most common chronic lung diseases claimed 3.6 million lives worldwide in 2015, according to a tally published Thursday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

New test differentiates between Lyme disease, similar illness

August 16, 2017
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. But it can be confused with similar conditions, including Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. A team of researchers led by Colorado ...

Addressing superbug resistance with phage therapy

August 16, 2017
International research involving a Monash biologist shows that bacteriophage therapy – a process whereby bacterial viruses attack and destroy specific strains of bacteria - can be used successfully to treat systemic, multidrug ...

Can previous exposure to west Nile alter the course of Zika?

August 15, 2017
West Nile virus is no stranger to the U.S.-Mexico border; thousands of people in the region have contracted the mosquito-borne virus in the past. But could this previous exposure affect how intensely Zika sickens someone ...

Compounds in desert creosote bush could treat giardia and 'brain-eating' amoeba infections

August 15, 2017
Researchers at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California San Diego and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have found that compounds produced by the creosote bush, a ...

New malaria analysis method reveals disease severity in minutes

August 11, 2017
Left untreated, malaria can progress from being mild to severe—and potentially fatal—in 24 hours. So researchers at the University of British Columbia developed a method to quickly and sensitively assess the progression ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.