Anti-sFlt-1 Therapy Preserves Lung Alveolar and Vascular Growth in Antenatal Models of Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia

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Abstract

Rationale:

Pregnancies complicated by antenatal stress, including preeclampsia (PE) and chorioamnionitis (CA), increase the risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in preterm infants, but biologic mechanisms linking prenatal factors with BPD are uncertain. Levels of sFlt-1 (soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1), an endogenous antagonist to VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), are increased in amniotic fluid and maternal blood in PE and associated with CA.

Objectives:

Because impaired VEGF signaling has been implicated in the pathogenesis of BPD, we hypothesized that fetal exposure to sFlt-1 decreases lung growth and causes abnormal lung structure and pulmonary hypertension during infancy.

Methods:

To test this hypothesis, we studied the effects of anti-sFlt-1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment on lung growth in two established antenatal models of BPD that mimic PE and CA induced by intraamniotic (i.a.) injections of sFlt-1 or endotoxin, respectively. In experimental PE, mAb was administered by three different approaches, including antenatal treatment by either i.a. instillation or maternal uterine artery infusion, or by postnatal intraperitoneal injections.

Results:

With each strategy, mAb therapy improved infant lung structure as assessed by radial alveolar count, vessel density, right ventricular hypertrophy, and lung function. As found in the PE model, the adverse lung effects of i.a. endotoxin were also reduced by antenatal or postnatal mAb therapy.

Conclusions:

We conclude that treatment with anti-sFlt-1 mAb preserves lung structure and function and prevents right ventricular hypertrophy in two rat models of BPD of antenatal stress and speculate that early mAb therapy may provide a novel strategy for the prevention of BPD.

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