A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics in which scientists at the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and King's College London looked at the DNA samples and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of more than 80 prematurely born babies has showed a link between brain injury at birth and the genes thought to play a part in schizophrenia and the metabolism of fat.
It has already been established that babies born pre-term have a predisposition to learning and behavioural difficulties, with around half of all babies born severely underweight going on to develop educational and attentional problems.
However, the brain injury scientists from the Edinburgh and London teams are the first to look at genes ARVCF and FADS2 to see their role in the impact on neonatal brain injury. The study has the potential to benefit a great number of families, with one in ten of all births worldwide thought to be premature.
Of course, other factors such as degree infection, quality of care and medical negligence all have a role to play in the incidence of brain injury at birth, but as one of the study's authors, Dr James Boardman, the scientific director at Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh comments, "They are not the whole story and genetic factors have a role in conferring risk or resilience."
It can only be hoped that this and further research will one day benefit families, help prevent birth injuries and empower medical staff to reduce incidents of medical negligence for mothers and babies.