Key lung development molecule’s discovery could protect premature babies

December 13th, 2008 - 3:32 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 13 (IANS) Collaborative research by scientists in Britain and the US has led to the discovery of a molecule that plays an important pasrt in early lung development, which is a potential drug target for treating premature babies with small, immature lungs. Within minutes of birth, a baby relies solely on its lungs to get the oxygen it needs but very premature babies are in extreme danger as the under-developed lungs they are born with struggle to take in enough oxygen. Consequently, they often develop chronic lung disease that may extend into adulthood.

“Through our research we have gained a better understanding of how lungs develop normally and so we can now begin to work out what happens when things go wrong, such as when a baby is born much too early,” said Daniela Riccardi of Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences.

“From the work we have published, we now have a real possibility for fast-tracking new drugs for helping these very premature babies,” she added.

Riccardi and Paul Kemp of the school collaborated with Saban Research Institute (SRI) at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. They discovered that a molecule called CaR (calcium receptor) is a crucial factor in the control of lung development in the womb, said a Cardiff University release.

CaR co-ordinates messages from within the growing foetus that instruct the lungs to develop thousands of channels and tiny air pockets. This complicated structure is what will ultimately allow oxygen to move from the air into the baby’s blood stream.

The research was published Friday in The Journal of Physiology.

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