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Common Pain Killer may Reduce the Risk of Brain Damage in Premature Babies

A recent research has found that the cox-2 inhibitor celecoxib, a common pain reliever used to treat arthritis, may reduce the risk of the most common cause of brain damage in premature babies.

The work involves shoring up blood vessels in a part of the brain that in premature infants is very delicate and susceptible to dangerous bleeding, which has an effect on an approximate 12,000 children a year, leaving many everlastingly affected by cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and seizures.

"Stabilizing the blood vessels right before the baby is born is a tremendous opportunity to save the baby from potentially lifelong complications," said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester Medical Center who is presenting the results at a neuroscience meeting, Brain '07, in Osaka, Japan May 20-23.

The laboratory research was done principally in a laboratory at New York Medical College led by neonatologist Praveen Ballabh, M.D.

The research is based on extensive brain studies of infants who died prematurely as well as on findings with newborn rabbits, whose brains bear a resemblance to those of premature babies in some very significant ways. The medication would need to be tested thoroughly in pregnant women before being considered as a treatment for their babies. But the investigators indicate that celecoxib is already used widely in people, including pregnant women, making a clinical trial in people possible.

The researchers focused on a part of the brain known in budding infants as the germinal matrix, a temporary formation that is the origin of all brain cells in a baby. The structure runs like an uneven coastline just below spaces in the brain called ventricles, and in premature infants it's enormously active, manufacturing new brain cells that wander and settle into other parts of the brain.

"This is a very, very important part of the brain, from wh
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