Erythropoietin, a 30-year-old anemia drug, could help prevent brain damage in newborns according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The study reveals that when administered to newborns with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or HIE, erythropoietin helps prevent and heal brain damage that can lead to conditions like cerebral palsy.
HIE and Erythropoietin
HIE is a brain injury that occurs mainly in full-term babies and is caused by a deprivation of oxygen supply to brain tissues. During labor, the brain and other vital organs are deprived of oxygen-rich blood, which causes tissues in the brain to swell and can cause significant damage that leads to cerebral palsy. The causes of HIE can occur as a result of untreated pregnancy complications, illnesses during pregnancy, and complicated labor.
First approved in the 1980s to treat anemia, erythropoietin or EPO is a synthetic hormone that mimics the body’s natural production of red blood cells. The use of this drug however has shown impressive results at reducing brain damage in infants with HIE.
Birth Prevalence of Children with Spastic Cerebral Palsy
Erythropoietin and Reduced Rate of Brain Injuries
Erythropoietin works by promoting an increase in red blood cells in the bone marrow. During the recent study, researchers examined 50 16.5-hour-old infants with HIE who were administered erythropoietin. In the participant pool, 26 infants were given erythropoietin, while 24 received the placebo. The results of therapy revealed the 26 infants who received the erythropoietin injection, 33% had no brain injury when compared to the placebo group. Out of the infants who received the placebo, however, 11 children developed moderate to severe brain injuries, while only 1 infant in the erythropoietin group developed brain injuries.
Cerebral palsy occurs in about two to three children out of 1,000, and at $60 per injection, erythropoietin is far less expensive than a lifetime care. There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy, and the condition affects body movement, and the ability to control, coordinate, tone, reflex, and balance muscles. It is estimated that cerebral palsy can cost a family around $900,000 over the course of a lifetime.