Here below the summary of a study you can find here in its full version.
Premature babies’ brain is highly vulnerable, and safeguarding it at best is one of modern medicine’s goals.
It could appear odd, but even simple exposure to oxygen-rich air, if done too early, could be dangerous.
Inside the womb we were use to live like on Mount Everest, with oxygen’s partial pressure equal to about two thirds which we are exposed now. Only around the last weeks of pregnancy we are able to fully prepare ourselves for leaving the uterus and developing defense mechanisms against oxidative stress, that imbalance between production and removal of oxidizing substances that could damage our cells.
Preterm-born babies , not having well developed this antioxidant “umbrella” yet, are more exposed to this oxygen radical free “rain”- and just this mechanism seems to play a basic role for the vulnerability of immature brain’s white matter. The oxidative stress could be particularly dangerous for the oligodendrocytes, a kind of cerebral cells in swift expansion during the third trimester of pregnancy.
Indeed, we have observed a link between adenosine’s levels, a chemical substance that could be released by oligodendrocytes suffering oxidative stress, and injuries of white matter displayed through brain RMI scan. Even if a lot is still needed to confirm this connection, we hope, in the future, to make use of this substance to uncover precociously the initial cerebral suffering and to work out strategies to defend premature brain’s develop in the best possible way.