ife without breathing cannot long be sustained, and the consequences to newborns can be particularly severe. At Winthrop, skilled medical scientists conduct clinical research to learn how to prevent long term impairment of delicate neonates who may be at great risk.
Jonathan Davis, MD, Chief, Division of Neonatology and Co-director of Winthrop's CardioPulmonary Research Institute - the CPRI - provides expert care for ill and premature newborns, in addition to spearheading ground breaking research to improve the outcome for those babies at highest risk.
Two significant complications associated with breathing problems in premature infants are permanent brain and lung damage. Studies have shown that an anti-oxidant delivered directly into the lungs of premature newborns demonstrates great promise in limiting long term lung and brain injuries, according to Jonathan Davis, MD, Chief, Division of Neonatology at Winthrop. Dr. Davis, who is also the Co-director of Winthrop’s CardioPulmonary Research Institute — a Hospital laboratory, staffed with PhD-level scientists, which conducts basic scientific research in heart-lung diseases — has been the lead investigator for multi-center national studies of this new, genetically engineered protein since its initial clinical trials began six years ago.
“Winthrop is becoming recognized nationally as a leading site for cutting-edge research into this new and exciting technology,” Dr. Davis said. “We are involved in the development of products that will become the standard of care in the new millennium.”
Superoxide dismutase is a recombinant protein created in the laboratory by inserting a human gene into harmless bacteria. As the bacteria replicate, the protein is also reproduced. Dr. Davis is enthusiastic about superoxide dismutase because preliminary indications demonstrate its potential for protecting both the brain and lungs.
It appears to work by helping to prevent damage from excessive amounts of oxygen in the neonate. “Before birth, oxygen levels are relatively low,” Dr. Davis explained. “When babies are born extremely premature, they need to breathe oxygen, but too much can be harmful, as can not enough.”
Without treatment, these premature babies are at increased risk for developing chronic lung problems such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia, asthma, and neurological abnormalities.
Final data analysis on the results of a 20-site national study is being completed. “Our investigation will next expand to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East,” Dr. Davis commented. In the most recent study, babies were followed until they reached a corrected age of one year. (“Corrected age” refers to the subtraction of the number of weeks of prematurity from the baby’s actual age. For example, a baby born 10 weeks premature would, at 62 weeks of life, have a corrected age of one year.) If subsequent studies confirm these promising findings, Dr. Davis expects that superoxide dismutase could be approved for use sometime within the next five years.
Dr. Davis has been invited to lecture on the CardioPulmonary Research Institute’s research in superoxide dismutase at professional medical meetings in San Francisco, California; Paris, France; and Athens, Greece. He is also heavily involved in ground breaking clinical trials of a variety of technologies to treat a multitude of problems in premature newborns. Access to these promising therapies is another advantage available to newborns at Winthrop — in addition to compassionate nursing care in Winthrop’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“Participation in these trials helps us to deliver the most advanced care to our patients,”
Dr. Davis concluded.