Researchers are always looking for new and effective ways to treat babies with brain damage, as over one million babies are born with these life-altering injuries every year. Recently, cannabidiol (CBD) has been identified as an exciting, although controversial, option for reversing the effects of brain damage in infants. Adults, politicians, and teens throughout the United States continue to debate the use of various cannabis-related substances like CBD for medical purposes, but are researchers really suggesting that CBD should be given to babies? Yes, and here’s why.
Confronting the Problem of Brain Damage in Babies
A team of researchers in Spain have been investigating the use of CBD to treat a specific form of newborn brain injury known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). This dangerous and potentially deadly condition manifests as brain damage caused by lack of oxygen. Although relatively rare, affecting between 2 and 3 babies per 1000 born, HIE resulting from birth asphyxia is the number one cause of infant deaths in the U.S. Those who survive hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy inevitably suffer severe complications, and many are left with permanent cognitive and physical disabilities.
HIE may be caused by a wide variety of factors and maternal conditions, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, maternal infection transmitted to the fetus, and prematurity. It may also be caused by medical mistakes and complications during labor and delivery. Regardless of the cause, infants with HIE are often severely disabled, and many die.
Accepted Medical Treatment for Babies with Brain Damage
As it stands, hypothermia therapy is the generally accepted treatment option for baby’s with brain damage. This form of treatment decreases the infant’s total body temperature to a lower range of between 33 and 34°C, whereby reducing the amount of inflammation in the brain. Hypothermia therapy has been shown to generate positive brain chemicals and to protect the brain from brain cell death. However, this treatment must be administered within 6 hours of delivery in order to be effective. If administered correctly within the necessary time frame, it can prevent disability and death in 60% of newborns with HIE.
Potential Use of Cannabinoids (CBD) to Reverse Brain Damage Effects
Until now, hypothermia treatment has been the only option to combat the effects of brain damage in babies with HIE. Researchers in Spain sought to identify a treatment option that could be used in conjunction with hypothermia as a means by which to improve outcomes. Recognizing its often catastrophic consequences, to further investigate potential HIE treatments seemed a worthy task to Dr. José Antonio Martínez-Orgado, a Spanish Associate Professor of Pediatrics and head of the San Carlos Hospital Neonatology Division. Throughout their research, Dr. Martinez-Orgado and his team continued to observe the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids, which prompted more specific research into its potential use for newborns with HIE-related brain damage.
Their initial animal study involved CBD, a cannabis compound that occurs naturally as an oil. CBD is unique among substances that come from cannabis, as it does not contain THC, which causes the high feeling of typical marijuana. CBD is not addictive and does not affect the receptors in the brain in the same way as intoxicating substances like THC, providing a safer alternative for use in newborns. Ultimately, they found that CBD:
- Reduced inflammation in the brain
- Diminished oxidative stress and associated damage
- Decreased neurotoxicity
These are the three primary factors leading to brain damage in babies and adults, alike. Yet, they affect infants more severely than children and adults, as newborns have much neurodevelopment to accomplish after birth and their brains are more susceptible to serious harm.
Combining CBD with Hypothermia Treatment for HIE
In their second phase of research, Dr. Martinez-Orgado and fellow researchers combined CBD with hypothermia to treat piglets with HIE-related brain damage. In this study, they administered hypothermia treatment, followed by three intravenous doses of purified CBD. The results were astounding. Investigators noted that when used in conjunction, these treatments were able to reduce brain damage almost entirely. In other words, the combined effects of cannabidiol and hypothermia may provide a more effective way to prevent and reverse HIE-related brain damage than either can provide on its own.
With such significant findings, investigations using human patients are set to begin in Spain and the U.K. The human clinical trials will involve infants with brain damage who receive either a combination of hypothermia treatment and CBD, hypothermia alone, or hypothermia along with a placebo. We can now only wait and see what may come of this potentially life-saving research, which could changes the lives of countless babies with brain damage in the future.
Options for Babies with Brain Damage in NJ
There is much still to learn about the possible benefits of CBD treatment for newborns with brain damage, but carving a path into this new area of medical investigation has begun, with very encouraging results. At Pediatric Malpractice Guide, we are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date information as it relates to birth injuries and other medical malpractice related harm affecting children. As for our our team of attorneys, we are dedicated to providing the best representation for those whose children have suffered brain damage and other serious harm caused by doctors, hospitals, and other treatment providers in New Jersey and the surrounding region.
If you are in need of assistance with a birth injury case, or you simply want to know more about your legal options, contact us anytime for a free consultation. Please feel free to call 866-708-8617 or use our online form to reach us 24/7. We will also conduct a free and comprehensive review of your baby’s brain damage case to determine if you may be eligible for compensation.
Cannabinoids: Well-Suited Candidates for the Treatment of Perinatal Brain Injury