Fetal Growth Restriction (FGR) babies can have a wide range of neurodevelopmental disabilities, ranging from lower academic performance and attention deficit disorders through to cerebral palsy. The exact nature of these serious long-term neurological impairments can be difficult to establish at birth.

Currently, there is no treatment to reduce these long-term adverse outcomes, however researchers at the Perinatal Research Centre have recently discovered a potentially revolutionary treatment from a surprisingly simple source: ibuprofen.

The researchers on this project first established the presence of inflammation in the FGR newborn brain. There is growing evidence that neuroinflammation plays a critical role in FGR brain injury. Next, the researchers examined how therapeutically targeting inflammation using ibuprofen could not only reduce sustained inflammation, but also reduce neuronal and white matter impairment.

“By administering ibuprofen for three days after birth, we were able to reduce damage to brain cells,” said Postdoctoral Researcher Dr Julie Wixey.

Ibuprofen is already given to preterm newborns suffering from heart valve closure and this study demonstrates that it can also be safely used as a neuroprotective treatment. However, further safety studies in this vulnerable population are currently underway.

This groundbreaking study could herald a change in clinical practice for the 32 million FGR babies born across the world each year.