Holtzman's lab has been studying neonatal brain injury for more than a decade by temporarily reducing oxygen levels and blood flow in the brains of 7-day-old mouse and rat pups. The model produces brain injuries similar to those seen in human infants injured by hypoxia ischemia.
Pomegranates contain very high concentrations of polyphenols, substances also found in grapes, red wine, and berries that scientists have linked to potential neuroprotective and anti-aging effects.
Scientists gave pregnant female mice water with pomegranate juice, plain water, sugar water or vitamin C water to drink during the last third of pregnancy and while they suckled their pups for seven days after birth.
After performing the procedures that exposed mouse pups to low oxygen levels, scientists examined the brains, comparing damage to the cortex, hippocampus and the striatum. Researchers who conducted the examinations were unaware of what the pup's mother drank. Mice whose mothers drank pomegranate juice had brain injuries less than half the size of those found in other mice.
Much of the damage from hypoxia ischemia results when oxygen-starved brain cells self-destruct via a process known as apoptosis. Scientists found an enzyme linked to apoptosis, caspase-3, was 84 percent less active in mice whose mothers drank pomegranate juice.
Holtzman says the results suggest the need for studies of pomegranate juice's effects in humans, but he cautions that because of the relative unpredictability of hypoxia ischemia in newborns, it would be difficult to assemble a sufficiently large study group.
Hypoxic ischemic brain damage is frequently associated with premature delivery. The lungs, brain and circulatory systems in some premature babies are insufficiently mature to supply the brain with enough nutrients and oxygen outside the womb. Scientists know some of the factors that increase risk of premature birth, includi
Contact: Michael C. Purdy
Washington University School of Medicine