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Finding Solutions to Thrive After Birth Asphyxia in Africa

Pia Wintermark of McGill University in Canada and Cally Tann of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom will establish a pilot cohort in Uganda of term newborns who suffered from asphyxia at birth, which means that their brain and other organs did not receive enough blood or oxygen, and conduct a clinical test of a novel neurorestorative agent (i.e., to repair brain injuries) to see if it can improve early brain development in this setting. Birth asphyxia and the resulting neonatal encephalopathy is the third leading cause of mortality in infants under five and leads to significant brain damage and long-term neurodevelopmental morbidities. In a rat model of term neonatal brain damage, they found that a compound, sildenafil, reduced brain damage and inflammation, and increased nerve cell growth. This compound has already proven safe for use in humans for other purposes. They will first assemble a pilot cohort of 100 neonates with neonatal encephalopathy in Uganda, and clinically evaluate them over the first three months of age to better characterize the disease in this setting. From this cohort, 30 newborns will be selected to test whether daily treatment of sildenafil from day 2 to day 9 of life can improve brain growth and development and is a feasible and acceptable neurorestorative treatment strategy in this setting.

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