The study – from scientists in the laboratory of Marlowe Eldridge, MD, MSME – recently was published as a Correspondence in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first to recognize “hidden” ventilatory dysfunction in this population – raising new questions about the long-term clinical consequences of prematurity.
Researchers (from left) Marlowe Eldridge, Melissa Bates and Emily Farrell take an integrative approach to cardiopulmonary physiology.
As part of their work on “Comprehensive Characterization of Intrapulmonary Arteriovenous Pathways in Health” – a grant from the National Institutes of Health–National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH–NHLBI) – the team was investigating pulmonary vascular responses to hypoxia (lower than normal oxygen) and hyperoxia (higher than normal oxygen) in healthy young adults born prematurely.
Interestingly, during exposure to hypoxia, the investigators noticed something unusual: One participant entered respiratory depression – the opposite of what normally happens in a healthy adult.
The team created an additional comprehensive study to investigate whether others in the cohort would have similar abnormal responses to low oxygen.
Those participants were recruited from The Newborn Lung Project, a longitudinal cohort study of premature infants born in Wisconsin and Iowa led by Maria Palta, PhD, professor in the departments of Population Health Sciences and Biostatistics and Medical Informatics. Members of the project’s first cohort were born in the 1980s and are now in their early 20s.
Investigators found that, as a group, these adults – born prematurely but otherwise clinically normal – had substantially reduced ventilatory responses to low oxygen compared to term-born adults.
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health