The Protective Role of Epidermal Growth Factor in Neonatal Necrotizing Enterocolitis
AuthorClark, Jessica Ann
Committee ChairDvorak, Bohuslav
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractNeonatal necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the most common gastrointestinal disease in premature babies. Despite significant morbidity and mortality, the cause of this disease remains unclear and there are no preventative treatments available. Prematurity and enteral feeding of infant formula are considered to be the primary risk factors for development of NEC. Interestingly, the incidence of NEC is six to ten times lower in breast-fed babies compared to those that were formula-fed. The factors responsible for the protective effect of breast milk against NEC have not been identified, but epidermal growth factor (EGF) is one of the most promising candidates. EGF is found at high concentrations in human milk, but is not present in any commercial formula. Mothers with extremely premature babies have 50-80% higher levels of EGF in their breast milk compared to mothers with full term infants. This suggests that EGF plays an important role in the development of premature infants. Our studies have shown that supplementation of EGF into formula significantly reduces the incidence of NEC in a neonatal rat model. However, the mechanisms underlying this EGF-mediated reduction of NEC are not understood. The overall hypothesis of this dissertation is that the protective effect of EGF in NEC pathogenesis is mediated via increased expression of pro-survival genes and strengthening of the mucosal barrier. The results of the studies within this dissertation demonstrate that treatment with EGF significantly decreases intestinal epithelial cell apoptosis at the site of NEC injury by up-regulating anti-apoptotic genes and down-regulating pro-apoptotic genes. Furthermore, supplementation of formula with EGF strengthens the mucosal barrier by inducing accelerated maturation of ileal goblet cells and mucin-2 production. In addition, EGF treatment normalizes expression of crucial tight junction proteins in the ileum. Consequently, EGF treatment results in a significant decrease in intestinal paracellular permeability and improved barrier function. Results from these studies will provide significant contributions to the understanding of EGF-mediated reduction of NEC, which may lead to development of therapeutic strategies for the treatment of human NEC.
Degree ProgramPhysiological Sciences