Scientific research on respiratory diseases in preterm infants

The Air Liquide Foundation is committed to scientific research, particularly in the field of improving respiratory function. That’s why it chose to support the PremUp Foundation in two fundamental and clinical research projects on the lungs of premature infants. We take a look at this partnership, which started six years ago.

In France today, 20 % of pregnancies are pathological, that is to say that they endanger the health of the mother and/or the child. This figure is in constant growth. Pregnancy later in life, the impoverishment of women… this perinatal situation is linked to a new societal context, and the trend is set to continue in the coming years. The consequences of these pathological pregnancies have an impact on the child’s health at birth as well as in adulthood.

That observation made, PremUp – a scientific foundation created in 2007 – is working to protect the health of pregnant women and newborns. The Foundation has launched long-term, cross-cutting research programs involving the best experts in mother and child healthcare. In the short term, its actions involve prevention and raising awareness in civil society.

Better understanding, prevention and treatment of intra-uterine growth retardation

Intra-uterine growth retardation and premature birth, which currently affect more than 80,000 pregnancies per year in France, are the main causes of perinatal mortality. Intra-uterine growth retardation is in great part responsible for premature birth. One in two premature births is medically induced to protect the health of the mother and/or the child

Only one in five cases of growth retardation is currently diagnosed before birth. The only possible therapy is preterm labor induction. This has major consequences on the child’s health and development, and it also increases the risk of many other diseases that can develop later in life: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardio-vascular disease, etc.
With the support of the Air Liquide Foundation, PremUp is conducting research on the pulmonary impact of this intra-uterine growth retardation.

Improving the protection of preterm infants’ lungs

Every year, 4,000 extremely premature babies develop bronchopulmonary dysplasia. This chronic respiratory disease of the lungs is common in preterm infants, who receive mechanical ventilation (supplied with relative high-pressure air and oxygen) to treat respiratory distress syndrome. Corticoids can be used, but they often have significant side-effects, in particular neurological effects. Still supported by the Air Liquide Foundation, PremUp’s scientific program focuses on identifying physiopathological mechanisms that could be behind this pathology and searching for suitable new therapeutic treatments.

Initiated by Professor Pierre-Henri Jarreau, this fundamental and clinical research project is coordinated by Doctor Elodie Zana-Taïeb at the Neonatal Medicine and Intensive Care Unit of Port Royal hospital in Paris, a member of the PremUp network. “We are studying new ways of signaling and regulating pulmonary inflammation to better protect the lungs of fetuses and newborns by analyzing the genes involved in the body. Using this method, we discovered that a natural molecule frequently used in nutrition could provide a therapeutic response. The first phase of tests will start in November. Without the support of the Air Liquide Foundation, the project could not have been developed. It also enabled me to conduct my research thesis and get articles published in international scientific journals,” explains Doctor Elodie Zana-Taïeb.

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To find out more

PremUp’s Website : www.premup.org

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Testimonials

The Air Liquide Foundation has been supporting PremUp since 2009, on two fundamental and clinical research projects on the lungs of preterm infants, with a donation of €170,000. We are delighted to contribute to PremUp’s work, which aims, first of all, to improve our understanding of the physiopathological mechanisms of bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a chronic respiratory disease with serious consequences in preterm infants; and secondly, to develop suitable new therapeutic treatments.

Marc LEMAIRE
International Senior Expert
Air Liquide Healthcare International R&D, Paris-Saclay Research Center