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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 2, 2018

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In Mice, Johns Hopkins Researchers Find the Cause of and Cure for Brain Injury Associated With Gut Condition in Preemies

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New understanding of molecular underpinnings points to need for more aggressive treatment and earlier

Using a mouse model of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) — a potentially fatal condition that causes a premature infant’s gut to suddenly die — researchers at Johns Hopkins say they have uncovered the molecular causes of the condition and its associated brain injury. The discovery enabled the team to combine efforts with colleagues studying brain inflammation and to identify potential drugs that reverse the brain injury in mice.

“Up until recently, there was no clear understanding of what causes NEC, and the only approach in severe cases was to surgically remove the dead gut from the infant,” says David Hackam, M.D., Ph.D., the Garrett Professor and Chief of Pediatric Surgery, a professor of surgery, pediatrics and cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “However, NEC survivors have ongoing problems, including significant cognitive impairment.”

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