Female infants have better protected brains


Every year thousands of newborn babies are born with a brain injury or a malfunction in the brain which eventually leads to some sort of disability in infants. This happens mainly due to the complications during pregnancy or when the brain doesn’t get sufficient supply of oxygen rich blood. The oxygen deprivation leads to Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), leading to mental disorder, cerebral palsy or in some cases even death.

Researchers found that female infants remain safe to an extent and male infants are prone to HIE, but the mystery in terms of gender classification for the disease remained unidentified till date.

In the medical journal eNeuro, published this week, medical researcher from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, headed by Pelin Cengiz, Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, says from a study that a certain protein is present in the brains of both males and females but the level is slightly higher in female infant mice and this is proved to be a reason why they are on the safer side in terms of brain injury.

People in general think that sex difference starts only at the age of puberty but the sex of a baby is decided the moment the zygote begins to develop in the womb. So in terms of treatment a baby girl with a brain injury cannot be given the same treatment that is given to a baby boy with the exact disease.

The protein responsible is called estrogen receptor α, or ERα in short, but research is still being conducted to know why it works only in female infant mice.

Research needs to be done to know how far the benefits would help the newborn infants born with brain injury. It would be a long time from now for this treatment to assist human babies but this new road will open up chances for new therapies.