New Zealand Scientists Use Stereo Investigator to Develop a New Model for Human Extreme Prematurity

675px-Oligodendrocyte

Oligodendrocytes, pictured here with a green fluorescent protein, form a myelin sheath – the insulation around axons. The extremely premature brain features a lower number of pre-oligodendrocytes, thereby decreasing myelination, a characteristic which has been associated with ADHD. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Each year, nearly ninety thousand children are born extremely premature in the United States – that is, before 28 weeks gestation. Most of them survive, but about half the survivors suffer from severe health problems throughout their childhood and into adulthood, including learning and behavioral disorders such as ADHD.

“Treatment options are clearly urgently required to prevent the brain damage and associated memory deficits that follow extremely premature birth,” say the authors of a study published last month in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Treatment options are limited, the authors say, because current small animal models fall short in their mimicry of the extremely premature human brain. However, the researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand have come up with a new animal model for human extreme prematurity, which they say more closely resembles the pathological and behavioral deficits seen among this population.

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