Lister Fellow Dino Giussani publishes new paper on preterm therapies

Lister Institute research prize fellow Professor Dino A. Giussani of the University of Cambridge published a paper earlier this year discussing how minor changes to the drugs given to the mothers of potential pre-term babies, or to premature babies themselves, could improve clinical treatments.

The paper is entitled “Isolating adverse effects of glucocorticoids on the embryonic cardiovascular system” and was published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.The current practice involves the use of glucocorticoid therapy which can show life-saving benefits for preterm infants – though there are some safety concerns.

One in ten babies are born prematurely and for 75% of these infants there is a serious risk of long-term illness, or even death, as a result of being born with immature lungs. Glucocorticoid therapy accelerates the maturation of infant lungs to help mitigate these effects.

However, new research from the Giussani laboratory in collaboration with Professors Sue Ozanne and Mike Murphy, also at Cambridge, has identified that there are potential adverse side effects on the offspring’s developing cardiovascular systems from the therapy.

The study showed that chicken embryos exposed to human clinically relevant doses of glucocorticoids did indeed show accelerated lung maturation, but also displayed a greater potential for developing heart cells prone to dysfunction and showing signs of oxidative stress.

The team have therefore proposed that combining antioxidant and glucocorticoid therapies could provide the best of both worlds, and have recommended that further work be done in this area.

Dino Giussani MA is Professor of Developmental Cardiovascular Physiology & Medicine at the Department of Physiology Development & Neuroscience in the University of Cambridge.

His research covers fetal and neonatal physiology and developmental programming, and various aspects of the broader field of reproduction. You can find out more about this work on this page.

Professor Giussani were also recently awarded The Physiological Society GL Brown Prize Lecture 2020 and will be holding a scientific webinar on the 3rd of December.

We are very pleased to have played a role in supporting some of Professor Giusanni’s work in previous years, and are looking forward to hearing more about developments in this important area.