In Health

Western Australia Minister for Health Roger Cook

Peptide Shows Promise Of Protecting Infant Brains

Victor P Taffa

  • Brain researchers investigate promising peptide compound to protect the brain of newborn babies
  • Potential treatment and therapy for some babies at risk of cerebral palsy and other permanent types of brain damage
  • Project funded by Telethon Perth Children’s Hospital Research Fund grant

Western Australian researchers believe they have identified a compound that could protect the brain cells of newborns who have had a stroke-like event around the time of birth.

“This project is a credit to Associate Professor Meloni and his team and an example of the innovative, world-class research taking place inside Western Australia’s public health system.” Minister for Health Roger Cook said.

“Lifetime healthcare costs associated with treating a single patient with cerebral palsy are estimated at $1.2-$1.3 Million, but the human cost of such a condition is incalculable.”

Their confidence stems from results achieved with a peptide dubbed ‘R18’.

R18 has been used in trials with brain cell cultures and pre-clinical models that mimic the stroke-like condition, known as hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE).

HIE affects 3 in every 1,000 live births, with up to 15-25 % of affected babies dying and an additional 25-60 % sustaining permanent brain damage, resulting in cerebral palsy, epilepsy or learning disabilities.

Research is being led by Associate Professor Bruno Meloni, a neuroscientist at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Science.

Current treatment for HIE is hypothermia, which involves actively lowering the body temperature of the affected baby to 33-34ºC and keeping it at that temperature for 72 hours, but the procedure has limitations.

Western Australian research team began investigating the potential of R18 to treat neonatal HIE, after it was shown to provide neuroprotective properties in pre-clinical models of adult stroke.

With its grant, the research team will build on existing work and aim to determine if R18 provides an additional benefit when combined with hypothermia.

Rates of HIE are even higher in developing countries and Australia’s rural and remote communities.

Researchers are hopeful that R18 will eventually become a therapy for treating neonatal HIE, either in combination with hypothermia or in instances where hypothermia is not available as a standalone treatment.

Telethon Perth Children’s Hospital Research Fund (TPCHRF) is a collaboration of the Department of Health and Channel 7 Telethon Trust that provides funding for Western Australian research, which focuses on the health and wellbeing of children and adolescents.

Study is among 13 projects that will share in $3.5 Million in the 6th round of the Telethon Perth Children’s Hospital Research Fund.


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