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Centre de recherche
Monday, September 28 2015
Press release

Blocking light improves preemies’ survival rates

MONTRÉAL, September 28, 2015 – The survival rate of preemies born between 26 to 31 weeks of gestation is improved by blocking light from reaching the intravenously-fed infused nutritious mixture they depend on for survival, researchers at CHU Sainte-Justine and the University of Montreal have revealed in a new study. Premature babied need to be fed intravenously due to the immaturity of their digestive system and their high nutritional requirements during their first days of life. This also prevents serious potential complications such as pulmonary and kidney dysfunction or generalized infection. ʺThe conclusions to be drawn are clear. An easy to implement, fully light-shielded delivery system for parenteral nutrition needs to be developed to reduce mortality rates in premature infantsʺ, said Jean-Claude Lavoie, lead author of the study which was published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition

Parenteral nutrition is essential to the survival of babies born preterm because it provides them with vital nutrients like proteins, fat and glucose, and enables them to develop just as fetuses of their age would do in their mother's womb. Ironically, exposing this type of food preparation to light generates oxidants which the premature infant’s immature defenses cannot fight. ʺThe photo-excited vitamins B2 and ‘electron donors’ such as vitamin C, amino acids and lipids all interact in the multivitamin solution and generate oxidants”, Jean-Claude Lavoie explains. “This creates an oxidative stress which damages and kills newborn cells. Fortunately, studies show that shielding parenteral nutrition from light significantly decreases such an interactionʺ, he adds. ʺHowever, the solution has to be shielded from the moment it is prepared in the pharmacy all the way through to infusion on the ward, including all bags, tubing and syringes through which it passes,” specifies Maxime Thibault, a pharmacist at CHU Sainte-Justine. “Partial photo-protection is ineffective in preventing oxidant generation.ʺ

To reach these conclusions, researchers ran a meta-analysis of studies reporting the outcome of photo-protected parenteral nutrition on preterm infants. The mortality rates of cohorts totalling 800 infants born preterm (between 26 and 31 weeks of pregnancy) at hospital discharge or when they had reached the equivalent of 36 weeks gestational age were analyzed. Only randomized studies were taken into account, where groups receiving a light-protected solution or a light-exposed solution were formed randomly. A 50% reduction in mortality rates was reported. Male infants were also reported to be half as resistant to oxidative stress, which leads scientists to suggest that this variable should be considered in preterm infant care.

Jean-Claude Lavoie’s team is about to launch a clinical trial to assess the efficacy of an end-to-end photo-protected delivery system that would be easy to implement in clinical settings. With a rising number of children and adults – for example with cancer – under long term home parenteral nutrition as part of a life-sustaining therapy, further studies need to be pursued to assess the potential benefits of photo-protection on severe complications that impede their quality of life.

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About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center

CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center is a leading mother-child research institution affiliated with Université de Montréal. It brings together more than 200 research investigators, including over 90 clinician-scientists, as well as 360 graduate and postgraduate students focused on finding innovative prevention means, faster and less invasive treatments, as well as personalized approaches to medicine. The Center is part of CHU Sainte-Justine, which is the largest mother-child center in Canada and second most important pediatric center in North America. More on research.chusj.org

CHU Sainte-Justine

Maude Hoffmann et Marise Daigle, CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center

Media contact:

William Raillant-Clark (International and English-speaking media)
International Press Attaché, University of Montreal (officially Université de Montréal)

Mélanie Dallaire (French-speaking media)
Senior Advisor, Media Relations, CHU Sainte-Justine
514 345-7707 (direct line) | 514 415-5727 (media pager)

Persons mentioned in the text

The article "Shielding parenteral nutrition from light improves survival rate in premature infants" was published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition on September 17, 2015. This research has been funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Lead author Jean-Claude Lavoie is a researcher in the Metabolic Health and Complex Diseases axis at CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center and associate professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Nutrition at Université de Montréal. First author Dr. Philippe Chessex works in the Neonatology Service at the Children's and Women's Health Centre of BC of University of British Columbia. 

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Updated on 9/28/2015
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