Possible Breakthrough Therapy for Premature Babies with Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

According to 9News, Harry Campbell was born very premature at 27 weeks. Not only this, but his dimensions were almost unfathomable. Harry was able to fit into the palm of his doctor and weighed barely 730 grams at time of birth. The story progresses, however, as Harry was also diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a condition that is found in up to 60 percent of premature babies.

What is Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia?

Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) is a lung condition that affects newborns. Often times, BPD is diagnosed in premature babies who have received oxygen therapy. That said, it can also be diagnosed in babies who have full-term births but were put on breathing machines. The condition forms when babies are given a large influx of oxygen for a long period of time. The infants that are given this oxygen may not have properly formed lungs at the time. In many babies, this is often times the result of severe respiratory distress syndrome. Doctors perform a variety of tests to diagnose bronchopulmonary dysplasia, including blood tests, chest CT scan/X-ray, and pulse oximetry. Common symptoms of BPD include bluish skin tone, quick breathing, grunting sounds, nostrils flaring, shortness of breath, coughing, and pulling between below the ribs when breathing. To learn more about the condition, click here.

A Possible Breakthrough

When Harry Campbell was born in Australia and diagnosed with the condition that could potentially result in life-long complications, his parents Ivan and Belinda were presented with the option to enroll Harry in the first human trial for a possible new therapy. The two eagerly embraced the idea.

“If being involved means that we can prevent other families from going through the same journey that we’ve been through, we couldn’t say no to that,” said Belinda Campbell.

What was once an untreatable condition may become fixable.

The Treatment

For 10 years, researchers and scientists at the Hudson Institute, Monash University along with Monash Children’s Hospital have been working together to develop a potential treatment, and they think that they may have perfected it.

The treatment they’ve been developing uses the stem cells from human placentas in order to activate an infant’s own lungs into repairing themselves. In this way, the babies are capable of ‘fixing’ their lungs before the condition even has time to take place.

Scientists and doctors are excited for the treatment’s potential.

“These babies are obviously very fragile and giving these cells to these babies is a big step towards moving in the direction where we have a therapy which potentially is going to change their lives,” said Dr. Atul Malhotra, doctor at Monash Children’s Hospital.

The Clinical Trials

The first phase of the clinical trial was mostly safety-related. Phase I simply involved testing six premature babies who had been diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia and making sure that the treatment was safe for them.

The second phase of the trial is where doctors are expecting to see tangible and impactful results. In the Phase 2 trial, the therapy will be administered to 24 premature infants in Victoria, Australia. These babies, however, have not yet been diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. The goal of this is to be able to prevent the condition from developing in these infants.

Implications

For those in Australia, a successful clinical trial could present life-changing results for up to 500 premature Australian babies per year. Hopefully, these results could have far reaching implications for other countries in the world as well.

“This is a world-first coming from Australia and it’s had trickle down effects very, very quickly around the world,” said Dr. Rebecca Lim from the Hudson Institute.

To learn more about this breakthrough therapy, click here.


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