Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have begun a study project to look into the effects of using synthetic steroids to prevent premature babies.
Premature infants frequently suffer health problems because their lungs are not fully developed. Currently the best treatments are to give the mother synthetic steroids and to prolong the pregnancy for as long as possible.
Sheep will be studied to learn how synthetic steroids given during pregnancy may act in the brain to alter regulation of blood pressure, affect the development of the kidneys and affect the ability of the kidneys to control the regulation of salt and water.
These findings will be compared to blood pressure regulation and kidney function in 14- year-olds who were exposed to synthetic steroids before birth. About 200 adolescents who were born prematurely and were cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units at either Brenner Children's Hospital or Forsyth Medical Center will be part of the study.
Other studies suggest that children treated with synthetic steroids prior to premature delivery may be at higher risk for developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and excessive weight gain, as they grow older.