Research ArticleGASTROINTESTINAL DISEASE

Cognitive impairments induced by necrotizing enterocolitis can be prevented by inhibiting microglial activation in mouse brain

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Science Translational Medicine  12 Dec 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 471, eaan0237
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan0237

The gut-brain conNECtion

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a gastrointestinal disorder affecting premature infants. Newborns with NEC often develop cognitive impairments. The mechanisms leading to cognitive disabilities remain unclear. Niño et al. show that increased oxidative stress in the brain triggered NEC-associated cognitive impairments in mice. The release of the proinflammatory molecule high-mobility group box 1 from the injured intestine activated Toll-like receptor 4 on microglial cells in the brain, resulting in accumulation of reactive oxygen species. Oral administration of microglia-targeting antioxidants prevented cognitive impairments in a mouse model of NEC. The results suggest that reducing microglial activation might be a strategy to protect patients from cognitive impairments associated with NEC.

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