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1.  Antenatal Allopurinol Reduces Hippocampal Brain Damage After Acute Birth Asphyxia in Late Gestation Fetal Sheep 
Reproductive Sciences  2014;21(2):251-259.
Free radical–induced reperfusion injury is a recognized cause of brain damage in the newborn after birth asphyxia. The xanthine oxidase inhibitor allopurinol reduces free radical synthesis and crosses the placenta easily. Therefore, allopurinol is a promising therapeutic candidate. This study tested the hypothesis that maternal treatment with allopurinol during fetal asphyxia limits ischemia–reperfusion (I/R) damage to the fetal brain in ovine pregnancy. The I/R challenge was induced by 5 repeated measured compressions of the umbilical cord, each lasting 10 minutes, in chronically instrumented fetal sheep at 0.8 of gestation. Relative to control fetal brains, the I/R challenge induced significant neuronal damage in the fetal hippocampal cornu ammonis zones 3 and 4. Maternal treatment with allopurinol during the I/R challenge restored the fetal neuronal damage toward control scores. Maternal treatment with allopurinol offers potential neuroprotection to the fetal brain in the clinical management of perinatal asphyxia.
PMCID: PMC3879995  PMID: 23793473
sheep; fetus; asphyxia; allopurinol; neuroprotection
2.  Antenatal Glucocorticoid Treatment Affects Hippocampal Development in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85671.
Synthetic glucocorticoids are administered to pregnant women at risk for preterm delivery, to enhance fetal lung maturation. The benefit of this treatment is well established, however caution is necessary because of possible unwanted side effects on development of different organ systems, including the brain. Actions of glucocorticoids are mediated by corticosteroid receptors, which are highly expressed in the hippocampus, a brain structure involved in cognitive functions. Therefore, we analyzed the effects of a single antenatal dexamethasone treatment on the development of the mouse hippocampus. A clinically relevant dose of dexamethasone (0.4 mg/kg) was administered to pregnant mice at embryonic day 15.5 and the hippocampus was analyzed from embryonic day 16 until adulthood. We investigated the effects of dexamethasone treatment on anatomical changes, apoptosis and proliferation in the hippocampus, hippocampal volume and on total body weight. Our results show that dexamethasone treatment reduced body weight and hippocampal volume transiently during development, but these effects were no longer detected at adulthood. Dexamethasone treatment increased the number of apoptotic cells in the hippocampus until birth, but postnatally no effects of dexamethasone treatment on apoptosis were found. During the phase with increased apoptosis, dexamethasone treatment reduced the number of proliferating cells in the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus. The number of proliferative cells was increased at postnatal day 5 and 10, but was decreased again at the adult stage. This latter long-term and negative effect of antenatal dexamethasone treatment on the number of proliferative cells in the hippocampus may have important implications for hippocampal network function.
PMCID: PMC3899077  PMID: 24465645
3.  Maternal-to-fetal allopurinol transfer and xanthine oxidase suppression in the late gestation pregnant rat 
Physiological Reports  2013;1(6):e00156.
Fetal brain hypoxic injury remains a concern in high-risk delivery. There is significant clinical interest in agents that may diminish neuronal damage during birth asphyxia, such as in allopurinol, an inhibitor of the prooxidant enzyme xanthine oxidase. Here, we established in a rodent model the capacity of allopurinol to be taken up by the mother, cross the placenta, rise to therapeutic levels, and suppress xanthine oxidase activity in the fetus. On day 20 of pregnancy, Wistar dams were given 30 or 100 mg kg−1 allopurinol orally. Maternal and fetal plasma allopurinol and oxypurinol concentrations were measured, and xanthine oxidase activity in the placenta and maternal and fetal tissues determined. There were significant strong positive correlations between maternal and fetal plasma allopurinol (r = 0.97, P < 0.05) and oxypurinol (r = 0.88, P < 0.05) levels. Under baseline conditions, maternal heart (2.18 ± 0.62 mU mg−1), maternal liver (0.29 ± 0.08 mU mg−1), placenta (1.36 ± 0.42 mU mg−1), fetal heart (1.64 ± 0.59 mU mg−1), and fetal liver (0.14 ± 0.08 mU mg−1) samples all showed significant xanthine oxidase activity. This activity was suppressed in all tissues 2 h after allopurinol administration and remained suppressed 24 h later (P < 0.05), despite allopurinol and oxypurinol levels returning toward baseline. The data establish a mammalian model of xanthine oxidase inhibition in the mother, placenta, and fetus, allowing investigation of the role of xanthine oxidase–derived reactive oxygen species in the maternal, placental, and fetal physiology during healthy and complicated pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC3871471  PMID: 24400158
Allopurinol; fetus; oxypurinol; xanthine oxidase
4.  Effects of Antenatal Glucocorticoid Therapy on Hippocampal Histology of Preterm Infants 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33369.
To investigate if antenatal glucocorticoid treatment has an effect on hippocampal histology of the human preterm newborn.
Patients and Methods
Included were consecutive neonates with a gestational age between 24 and 32 weeks, who were born between 1991 to 2009, who had died within 4 days after delivery and underwent brain autopsy. Excluded were neonates with congenital malformations and neonates treated postnatally with glucocorticoids.
The brains were routinely fixed, samples of the hippocampus were stained with haematoxylin and eosin and sections were examined for presence or absence of large and small neurons in regions of the hippocampus. Additional staining with GFAP, neurofilament and vimentin was performed to evaluate gliosis and myelination. The proliferation marker Ki67 was used to evaluate neuronal proliferation. Staining with acid fuchsin-thionin was performed to evaluate ischemic damage.
The hippocampi of ten neonates who had been treated with antenatal glucocorticoids showed a lower density of large neurons (p = 0.01) and neurons irrespective of size (p = 0.02) as compared to eleven neonates who had not been treated with glucocorticoids. No difference was found in density of small neurons, in myelination, gliosis, proliferation or ischemic damage.
We found a significantly lower density of neurons in the hippocampus of neonates after antenatal glucocorticoid treatment. Although the pathophysiological and clinical interpretations of these findings are not clear, they are consistent with those from experiments in mice and rhesus monkeys.
PMCID: PMC3311632  PMID: 22457757
5.  Oxidative Stress in the Developing Brain: Effects of Postnatal Glucocorticoid Therapy and Antioxidants in the Rat 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21142.
In premature infants, glucocorticoids ameliorate chronic lung disease, but have adverse effects on long-term neurological function. Glucocorticoid excess promotes free radical overproduction. We hypothesised that the adverse effects of postnatal glucocorticoid therapy on the developing brain are secondary to oxidative stress and that antioxidant treatment would diminish unwanted effects. Male rat pups received a clinically-relevant tapering course of dexamethasone (DEX; 0.5, 0.3, and 0.1−−1), with or without antioxidant vitamins C and E (DEXCE; 200−−1 and 100−−1, respectively), on postnatal days 1–6 (P1–6). Controls received saline or saline with vitamins. At weaning, relative to controls, DEX decreased total brain volume (704.4±34.7 mm3 vs. 564.0±20.0 mm3), the soma volume of neurons in the CA1 (1172.6±30.4 µm3 vs. 1002.4±11.8 µm3) and in the dentate gyrus (525.9±27.2 µm3 vs. 421.5±24.6 µm3) of the hippocampus, and induced oxidative stress in the cortex (protein expression: heat shock protein 70 [Hsp70]: +68%; 4-hydroxynonenal [4-HNE]: +118% and nitrotyrosine [NT]: +20%). Dexamethasone in combination with vitamins resulted in improvements in total brain volume (637.5±43.1 mm3), and soma volume of neurons in the CA1 (1157.5±42.4 µm3) and the dentate gyrus (536.1±27.2 µm3). Hsp70 protein expression was unaltered in the cortex (+9%), however, 4-HNE (+95%) and NT (+24%) protein expression remained upregulated. Treatment of neonates with vitamins alone induced oxidative stress in the cortex (Hsp70: +67%; 4-HNE: +73%; NT: +22%) and in the hippocampus (NT: +35%). Combined glucocorticoid and antioxidant therapy in premature infants may be safer for the developing brain than glucocorticoids alone in the treatment of chronic lung disease. However, antioxidant therapy in healthy offspring is not recommended.
PMCID: PMC3115992  PMID: 21698270
6.  Antioxidant Treatment Alters Peripheral Vascular Dysfunction Induced by Postnatal Glucocorticoid Therapy in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9250.
Postnatal glucocorticoid therapy in premature infants diminishes chronic lung disease, but it also increases the risk of hypertension in adulthood. Since glucocorticoid excess leads to overproduction of free radicals and endothelial dysfunction, this study tested the hypothesis that adverse effects on cardiovascular function of postnatal glucocorticoids are secondary to oxidative stress. Therefore, combined postnatal treatment of glucocorticoids with antioxidants may diminish unwanted effects.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Male rat pups received a course of dexamethasone (Dex), or Dex with vitamins C and E (DexCE), on postnatal days 1–6 (P1–6). Controls received vehicle (Ctrl) or vehicle with vitamins (CtrlCE). At P21, femoral vascular reactivity was determined via wire myography. Dex, but not DexCE or CtrlCE, increased mortality relative to Ctrl (81.3 versus 96.9 versus 90.6 versus 100% survival, respectively; P<0.05). Constrictor responses to phenylephrine (PE) and thromboxane were enhanced in Dex relative to Ctrl (84.7±4.8 versus 67.5±5.7 and 132.7±4.9 versus 107.0±4.9% Kmax, respectively; P<0.05); effects that were diminished in DexCE (58.3±7.5 and 121.1±4.3% Kmax, respectively; P<0.05). Endothelium-dependent dilatation was depressed in Dex relative to Ctrl (115.3±11.9 versus 216.9±18.9, AUC; P<0.05); however, this effect was not restored in DexCE (68.3±8.3, AUC). Relative to Ctrl, CtrlCE alone diminished PE-induced constriction (43.4±3.7% Kmax) and the endothelium-dependent dilatation (74.7±8.7 AUC; P<0.05).
Treatment of newborn rats with dexamethasone has detrimental effects on survival and peripheral vasoconstrictor function. Coadministration of dexamethasone with antioxidant vitamins improves survival and partially restores vascular dysfunction. Antioxidant vitamins alone affect peripheral vascular function.
PMCID: PMC2822858  PMID: 20174656
7.  Antenatal allopurinol for reduction of birth asphyxia induced brain damage (ALLO-Trial); a randomized double blind placebo controlled multicenter study 
Hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy is associated with development of cerebral palsy and cognitive disability later in life and is therefore one of the fundamental problems in perinatal medicine. The xanthine-oxidase inhibitor allopurinol reduces the formation of free radicals, thereby limiting the amount of hypoxia-reperfusion damage. In case of suspected intra-uterine hypoxia, both animal and human studies suggest that maternal administration of allopurinol immediately prior to delivery reduces hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy.
The proposed trial is a randomized double blind placebo controlled multicenter study in pregnant women at term in whom the foetus is suspected of intra-uterine hypoxia.
Allopurinol 500 mg IV or placebo will be administered antenatally to the pregnant woman when foetal hypoxia is suspected. Foetal distress is being diagnosed by the clinician as an abnormal or non-reassuring foetal heart rate trace, preferably accompanied by either significant ST-wave abnormalities (as detected by the STAN-monitor) or an abnormal foetal blood scalp sampling (pH < 7.20).
Primary outcome measures are the amount of S100B (a marker for brain tissue damage) and the severity of oxidative stress (measured by isoprostane, neuroprostane, non protein bound iron and hypoxanthine), both measured in umbilical cord blood. Secondary outcome measures are neonatal mortality, serious composite neonatal morbidity and long-term neurological outcome. Furthermore pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics will be investigated.
We expect an inclusion of 220 patients (110 per group) to be feasible in an inclusion period of two years. Given a suspected mean value of S100B of 1.05 ug/L (SD 0.37 ug/L) in the placebo group this trial has a power of 90% (alpha 0.05) to detect a mean value of S100B of 0.89 ug/L (SD 0.37 ug/L) in the 'allopurinol-treated' group (z-test2-sided). Analysis will be by intention to treat and it allows for one interim analysis.
In this trial we aim to answer the question whether antenatal allopurinol administration reduces hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy in neonates exposed to foetal hypoxia.
Trial registration number
Clinical Trials, protocol registration system: NCT00189007
PMCID: PMC2834613  PMID: 20167117
8.  Assessment of perinatal outcome after sustained tocolysis in early labour (APOSTEL-II trial) 
Preterm labour is the main cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality in the Western world. At present, there is evidence that tocolysis for 48 hours is useful in women with threatened preterm labour at least before 32 weeks. This allows transfer of the patient to a perinatal centre, and maximizes the effect of corticosteroids for improved neonatal survival. It is questionable whether treatment with tocolytics should be maintained after 48 hours.
The APOSTEL II trial is a multicentre placebo-controlled study. Pregnant women admitted for threatened preterm labour who have been treated with 48 hours corticosteroids and tocolysis will be eligible to participate in the trial between 26+0 and 32+2 weeks gestational age. They will be randomly allocated to nifedipine (intervention) or placebo (control) for twelve days or until delivery, whatever comes first.
Primary outcome is a composite of perinatal death, and severe neonatal morbidity up to evaluation at 6 months after birth. Secondary outcomes are gestational age at delivery, number of days in neonatal intensive care and total days of the first 6 months out of hospital. In addition a cost-effectiveness analysis will be performed. Analysis will be by intention to treat. The power calculation is based on an expected 11% difference in adverse neonatal outcome. This implies that 406 women have to be randomised (two sided test, β 0.2 at alpha 0.05).
This trial will provide evidence as to whether maintenance tocolysis reduces severe perinatal morbidity and mortality in women with threatened preterm labour before 32 weeks.
Trial Registration
Clinical trial registration: , NTR 1336, date of registration: June 3rd 2008.
PMCID: PMC2754432  PMID: 19737426
9.  Cost-effectiveness of fibronectin testing in a triage in women with threatened preterm labor: alleviation of pregnancy outcome by suspending tocolysis in early labor (APOSTEL-I trial) 
At present, women with threatened preterm labor before 32 weeks of gestation are, after transfer to a perinatal center, treated with tocolytics and corticosteroids. Many of these women are treated unnecessarily. Fibronectin is an accurate predictor for the occurrence of preterm birth among women with threatened preterm labor. We will assess whether triage of these women with fibronectin testing, cervical length or their combination is cost-effective.
We will investigate a prospective cohort of women referred to a perinatal centre for spontaneous threatened preterm labor between 24 and 34 weeks with intact membranes. All women will be tested for fibronectin and cervical length. Women with a cervical length <10 mm and women with a cervical length between 10-30 mm in combination with a positive fibronectin test will be treated with tocolytics according to local protocol. Women with a cervical length between 10-30 mm in combination with a negative fibronectin test will be randomised between treatment with nifedipine (intervention) and placebo (control) for 48 hours. Women with a cervical length > 30 mm will be managed according to local protocol. Corticosteroids may be given to all women at the discretion of the attending physician. Primary outcome measure will be delivery within 7 days. Secondary outcome measures will be neonatal morbidity and mortality, complications of tocolytics, costs and health related quality of life. The analysis will be according to the intention to treat principle. We anticipate the probability on preterm birth within 7 days in the group of women with a negative fibronectine test to be 5%. Two groups of 110 women will be needed to assure that in case of non-inferiority the difference in the proportion of preterm deliveries < 7 days will be within a prespecified boundary of 7.5% (one sided test, β 0.2, α 0.05). Data obtained from women with a positive and negative fibronectin tests in both the cohort study and the trial will be integrated in a cost-effectiveness analysis that will assess economic consequences of the use of fibronectin.
This study will provide evidence for the use of fibronectin testing as safe and cost-effective method in a triage for threatened preterm labor.
Trial registration
Nederlands Trial Register (NTR) number 1857, .
PMCID: PMC2752451  PMID: 19723320
10.  Long-Term Neurodevelopmental Outcome of Monochorionic and Matched Dichorionic Twins 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6815.
Monochorionic (MC) twins are at increased risk for perinatal mortality and serious morbidity due to the presence of placental vascular anastomoses. Cerebral injury can be secondary to haemodynamic and hematological disorders during pregnancy (especially twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) or intrauterine co-twin death) or from postnatal injury associated with prematurity and low birth weight, common complications in twin pregnancies. We investigated neurodevelopmental outcome in MC and dichorionic (DC) twins at the age of two years.
This was a prospective cohort study. Cerebral palsy (CP) was studied in 182 MC infants and 189 DC infants matched for weight and age at delivery, gender, ethnicity of the mother and study center. After losses to follow-up, 282 of the 366 infants without CP were available to be tested with the Griffiths Mental Developmental Scales at 22 months corrected age, all born between January 2005 and January 2006 in nine perinatal centers in The Netherlands. Due to phenotypic (un)alikeness in mono-or dizygosity, the principal investigator was not blinded to chorionic status; perinatal outcome, with exception of co-twin death, was not known to the examiner.
Four out of 182 MC infants had CP (2.2%) - two of the four CP-cases were due to complications specific to MC twin pregnancies (TTTS and co-twin death) and the other two cases of CP were the result of cystic PVL after preterm birth - compared to one sibling of a DC twin (0.5%; OR 4.2, 95% CI 0.5–38.2) of unknown origin. Follow-up rate of neurodevelopmental outcome by Griffith's test was 76%. The majority of 2-year-old twins had normal developmental status. There were no significant differences between MC and DC twins. One MC infant (0.7%) had a developmental delay compared to 6 DC infants (4.2%; OR 0.2, 95% 0.0–1.4). Birth weight discordancy did not influence long-term outcome, though the smaller twin had slightly lower developmental scores than its larger co-twin.
There were no significant differences in occurrence of cerebral palsy as well as neurodevelopmental outcome between MC and DC twins. Outcome of MC twins seems favourable in the absence of TTTS or co-twin death.
PMCID: PMC2728837  PMID: 19714240
11.  Induction of labour versus expectant management in women with preterm prelabour rupture of membranes between 34 and 37 weeks (the PPROMEXIL-trial) 
Preterm prelabour rupture of the membranes (PPROM) is an important clinical problem and a dilemma for the gynaecologist. On the one hand, awaiting spontaneous labour increases the probability of infectious disease for both mother and child, whereas on the other hand induction of labour leads to preterm birth with an increase in neonatal morbidity (e.g., respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)) and a possible rise in the number of instrumental deliveries.
We aim to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of immediate delivery after PPROM in near term gestation compared to expectant management. Pregnant women with preterm prelabour rupture of the membranes at a gestational age from 34+0 weeks until 37+0 weeks will be included in a multicentre prospective randomised controlled trial. We will compare early delivery with expectant monitoring.
The primary outcome of this study is neonatal sepsis. Secondary outcome measures are maternal morbidity (chorioamnionitis, puerperal sepsis) and neonatal disease, instrumental delivery rate, maternal quality of life, maternal preferences and costs. We anticipate that a reduction of neonatal infection from 7.5% to 2.5% after induction will outweigh an increase in RDS and additional costs due to admission of the child due to prematurity. Under these assumptions, we aim to randomly allocate 520 women to two groups of 260 women each. Analysis will be by intention to treat. Additionally a cost-effectiveness analysis will be performed to evaluate if the cost related to early delivery will outweigh those of expectant management. Long term outcomes will be evaluated using modelling.
This trial will provide evidence as to whether induction of labour after preterm prelabour rupture of membranes is an effective and cost-effective strategy to reduce the risk of neonatal sepsis.
Controlled clinical trial register
PMCID: PMC1934382  PMID: 17617892

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