UMHS researchers help hone use of substance to improve lung function in premature infants

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When babies are born prematurely, their lungs are not able to produce a protein that helps them breathe. Now, using a device already used in the neonatal intensive care unit to monitor lung function in premature infants, University of Michigan Health System researchers have taken a step in helping neonatal specialists administer a replacement substance that helps babies breathe easier.

By comparing two available types of this substance, called surfactant, researchers found one formulation may be more effective in the long run.

"It's more than just comparing Coke and Pepsi. The two different surfactants we looked at seem to have a different course of action," says senior study author Steven M. Donn, M.D., director of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at UMHS and professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the U-M Medical School.

"Although we didn't see much of a change in lung function immediately after their administration, the Infasurf seemed to have a more lasting effect. Infants didn't show a dramatic effect immediately after receiving it, but they required fewer doses than the babies treated with Survanta. Because these medications are extremely expensive, there's a substantial cost savings when we use less," Donn says.

The study appears in the October issue of the Journal of Perinatology.

Respiratory distress syndrome is a major complication for babies born prematurely. These infants do not produce enough surfactant, the naturally occurring substance that prevents the collapse of the air sacs within the lungs and enhances the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Administering animal-derived or synthetic forms of surfactant can help improve lung function, research has shown, and this has dramatically increased the survival of infants born extremely early.

In this study, researchers randomly assigned 40 infants born at U-M's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital to receive either Survanta or

Contact: Nicole Fawcett
University of Michigan Health System

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