Their results, which are published in the scientific journal PNAS, are largely based on mouse studies, although a small-scale clinical study on new-born babies in neonatal care was also conducted.
Researchers at the Department of Woman and Child Health have established that an enzyme (mPGES-1) in the blood-brain barrier is activated on infection, stimulating in turn the secretion of the prostaglandin E2, a signal substance, near the respiratory centres of the brain stem. If the body is temporarily hypoxic, it is this brainstem area that induces compensatory gasping. In the event temporary suffocation, therefore, an inhibition of the nerve cells in the respiratory centre, via PGE2, in vulnerable individuals could lead to a diminished respiratory response, hypoxia and, at worst, death.
“It is possible that these findings may explain the association between mild infection, inflammation and Cot-death syndrome”, says Dr Eric Herlenius, the leader of the study. “Understanding how infection can affect respiration will enable us to introduce new improved methods for the monitoring, diagnosis and treatment of new-born babies”.
The research team will now be conducting a larger-scale clinical study in association with Karolinska University Hospital.
“The induced prostaglandin E2 pathway is a key regulator of the respiratory response to infection and hypoxia in neonates”
A.O. Hofstetter, S. Saha, V. Siljehav, P.J. Jakobsson and E. Herlenius
PNAS 23: 9894-9899, 2007
For further information, please contact:
PhD, MD Eric Herlenius
Department of Woman and Child Health
Tel: +46 (0)8-517 773 57 or +46 (0)73-6789987 (mobile)
Press Officer Katarina Sternudd
Tel: +46 (0)8-524 838 95 or +46 (0)70-224 38 95