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Nitric Oxide Could Benefit Premature Babies

Allowing certain premature babies to inhale small amounts of nitric oxide could prevent a potentially fatal lung disease called bronchopulmonary dysplasia, according// to the results of two studies that were revealed on Wednesday. Many thousands of babies are born with this condition each year in the United States. As a result of this disease their lungs are too immature to mix inhaled air properly with blood to make oxygen available to the cells of the body. There has been limited progress in fighting this problem, which often leads to brain damage.

The two studies were published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine. However they have mentioned that their findings were not conclusive enough to use nitric oxide as a recommend routine treatment and further tests were needed to ensure proper development of the child. Nitric oxide, a compound that plays a significant role in the heart and circulatory system, was delivered by different strategies by the researchets to these infants. In the study led by John Kinsella of the University of Colorado School of Medicine the gas was given soon after birth and it was found that this treatment appeared to be beneficial only to babies weighing at least 2.2 pounds. However their risk of lung problems was cut by half. No breathing benefit was shown for smaller babies on ventilators who received the gas although the risk of brain damage was halved in all babies who received the gas. Kinsella said, “We are optimistic that this therapy could prevent long-term developmental and neurological problems in many of these children.”

The 793 babies of the study, started to receive nitric oxide gas or a placebo when they were less than 48 hours old.

The second study was led by Roberta Ballard of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who gave 582 babies nitric oxide or a placebo only after the infants were at least seven days old.

In this study the researchers found that, after 36 weeks, 44
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