Developmental Neurobiology Research

The Newborn Division's investigators seek a better understanding of brain injury in premature infants caused by adverse perinatal environmental factors, such as inflammation, hypoxia-ischemia, corticosteroid exposure and hyper-oxygenation, among others.

Advances in neonatal care in recent years have led to increased survival rate of very premature infants; however, the high incidence of neurodevelopmental disorders, ranging from serious motor deficits (e.g. cerebral palsy) in 5% to 10% of premature babies to significant cognitive, behavioral, attentional, and socialization deficits like autism spectrum disorders in 25% to 50% of premature infants contribute enormously to overall burden of neurodevelopmental disturbance in US. Unfortunately, little is known regarding the underlying neuropathology of these conditions, and currently there are no preventive or therapeutic options available.

Several investigators, including Drs. Yi Pang, Lir-Wan Fan, Yangzheng Feng and Abhay Bhatt, are conducting research using different preclinical models (based on etiological factors identified in clinical studies). Although working on different projects, their goal is the same: to recognize how to target molecular mechanisms causing ongoing brain damage following these insults in order to develop therapeutic strategies for the prevention and/or treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders among these vulnerable premature infants.

The group's work has being well supported by a variety of funding agencies including NIH, Michael J. Fox foundation, IRSP and Intradepartmental Research Support Programs. For many years, their work has been published in leading journals in neuroscience and pediatric fields, such as brain research, neuroscience, glia, pediatric research, etc.