Researchers solve mystery behind baby's first breath

March 5, 2013

(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 .

Explore further: Swedish heart test saves lives of newborns with heart defects

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

Related Stories

Swedish heart test saves lives of newborns with heart defects

October 11, 2011
The US Secretary of Health recently supported a recommendation that all babies born in the US are to be screened for critical heart defects, before leaving hospital. Behind this decision is a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy ...

New study could lead to preeclampsia prevention

November 6, 2012
Excessive turnover of cells in the placenta may trigger an unnatural increase in blood pressure that puts mother and baby at risk, researchers say.

Research findings breathe new life into lung disease

October 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

April 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

Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

November 17, 2017
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.

Molecular guardian defends cells, organs against excess cholesterol

November 16, 2017
A team of researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health has illuminated a critical player in cholesterol metabolism that acts as a molecular guardian in cells to help maintain cholesterol levels within a safe, ...

Prototype ear plug sensor could improve monitoring of vital signs

November 16, 2017
Scientists have developed a sensor that fits in the ear, with the aim of monitoring the heart, brain and lungs functions for health and fitness.

Ancient enzyme could boost power of liquid biopsies to detect and profile cancers

November 16, 2017
Scientists are developing a set of medical tests called liquid biopsies that can rapidly detect the presence of cancers, infectious diseases and other conditions from only a small blood sample. Researchers at The University ...

FDA to crack down on risky stem cell offerings

November 16, 2017
U.S. health authorities announced plans Thursday to crack down on doctors pushing stem cell procedures that pose the gravest risks to patients amid an effort to police a burgeoning medical field that previously has received ...

Engineering the gut microbiome with 'good' bacteria may help treat Crohn's disease

November 15, 2017
Penn Medicine researchers have singled out a bacterial enzyme behind an imbalance in the gut microbiome linked to Crohn's disease. The new study, published online this week in Science Translational Medicine, suggests that ...

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.