Epidemiological studies have shown a strong association between perinatal infection/inflammation and brain damage in preterm infants and/or neurological handicap in survivors. Experimental studies have shown a causal effect of infection/inflammation on perinatal brain damage. Infection including inflammatory factors can disrupt programmes of brain development and, in particular, induce death and/or blockade of oligodendrocyte maturation, leading to myelin defects. Alternatively, in the so-called multiple-hit hypothesis, infection/inflammation can act as predisposing factors, making the brain more susceptible to a second stress (sensitization process), such as hypoxic–ischaemic or excitotoxic insults. Epidemiological data also suggest that perinatal exposure to inflammatory factors could predispose to long-term diseases including psychiatric disorders.
Brain damage of the preterm infant: new insights into the role of inflammation
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Juliette Van Steenwinckel, Anne-Laure Schang, Stéphanie Sigaut, Vibol Chhor, Vincent Degos, Henrik Hagberg, Olivier Baud, Bobbi Fleiss, Pierre Gressens; Brain damage of the preterm infant: new insights into the role of inflammation. Biochem Soc Trans 1 April 2014; 42 (2): 557–563. doi: https://doi.org/10.1042/BST20130284
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