Injury to the fragile immature brain is implicated in the manifestation of long-term neurological disorders, including childhood disability such as cerebral palsy, learning disability and behavioral disorders. Advancements in perinatal practice and improved care mean the majority of infants suffering from perinatal brain injury will survive, with many subtle clinical symptoms going undiagnosed until later in life. Hypoxicischemia is the dominant cause of perinatal brain injury, and constitutes a significant socioeconomic burden to both developed and developing countries. Therapeutic hypothermia is the sole validated clinical intervention to perinatal asphyxia; however it is not always neuroprotective and its utility is limited to developed countries. There is an urgent need to better understand the molecular pathways underlying hypoxic-ischemic injury to identify new therapeutic targets in such a small but critical therapeutic window. Mitochondria are highly implicated following ischemic injury due to their roles as the powerhouse and main energy generators of the cell, as well as cell death processes. While the link between impaired mitochondrial bioenergetics and secondary energy failure following loss of high-energy phosphates is well established after hypoxia-ischemia (HI), there is emerging evidence that the roles of mitochondria in disease extend far beyond this. Indeed, mitochondrial turnover, including processes such as mitochondrial biogenesis, fusion, fission and mitophagy, affect recovery of neurons after injury and mitochondria are involved in the regulation of the innate immune response to inflammation. This review article will explore these mitochondrial pathways, and finally will summarize past and current efforts in targeting these pathways after hypoxic-ischemic injury, as a means of identifying new avenues for clinical intervention.
- Perinatal brain injury