A gene that helps protect newborns from respiratory distress syndrome has been isolated by Yale School of Medicine researchers. The gene, macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), also helps fetal lungs develop. The findings appear in this month’s Journal of Immunology.
The overt cause of respiratory distress syndrome, the most common respiratory cause of infant death in the United States, is underdeveloped lungs. The more premature the newborns, the likelier they are to have a loss of lung volume caused by air space collapse and poorly developed capillaries. Infants with the syndrome often require mechanical ventilation within the first hours of life.
Despite advances in treatment, survivors usually develop lung disease and are at higher risk of developing asthma, which prompted the Yale team to want to pinpoint the molecular events leading to this syndrome.