A recent study by Cambridge scientists shows that combining glucocorticoid steroids and statin therapy can eliminate negative effects of steroids on the cardiovascular system of preterm babies, while retaining their positive effects on the respiratory system. Artificial Pancreas Successfully Trialed: New Hope for Type-2 Diabetes Patients
Preterm birth, which affects one in ten babies in high-income countries, can be fatal for newborns as they miss out on crucial final developmental stage when cortisol is produced and released into the blood. Cortisol is vital for maturation of organs and systems needed to keep the baby alive once born.
The established treatment for threatened preterm birth is glucocorticoid therapy, given via the mother before birth or directly to the baby after birth. These steroids mimic cortisol and speed up the development of organs, including the lungs, making preterm babies more likely to survive.
However, previous studies have shown that exposure to glucocorticoid therapy can result in cardiovascular problems resembling accelerated aging. This could be caused by steroids leading to oxidative stress and a reduction in nitric oxide, which is beneficial to the cardiovascular system.
The Cambridge researchers combined the steroid treatment with statins, which increase nitric oxide, and tested the combination on rat pups. The results showed that statins protected the rats from adverse cardiovascular effects of steroids, while not affecting the beneficial effects on the respiratory system.
The researchers plan to replicate the experiment in sheep before conducting human clinical trials, with the aim of improving therapy for preterm birth by combining glucocorticoids and statins.