Background: Increased circulating levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) are associated with greater risk of impaired neurodevelopment after preterm birth. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that systemic TNF inhibition, using the soluble TNF receptor Etanercept, would attenuate neuroinflammation in preterm fetal sheep exposed to lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Methods: Chronically instrumented preterm fetal sheep at 0.7 of gestation were randomly assigned to receive saline (control; n = 7), LPS infusion (100 ng/kg i.v. over 24 h then 250 ng/kg/24 h for 96 h plus 1 μg LPS boluses at 48, 72, and 96 h, to induce inflammation; n = 8) or LPS plus two i.v. infusions of Etanercept (2 doses, 5 mg/kg infused over 30 min, 48 h apart) started immediately before LPS-exposure (n = 8). Sheep were killed 10 days after starting infusions, for histology. Results: LPS boluses were associated with increased circulating TNF, interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-10, electroencephalogram (EEG) suppression, hypotension, tachycardia, and increased carotid artery perfusion (P < 0.05 vs. control). In the periventricular and intragyral white matter, LPS exposure increased gliosis, TNF-positive cells, total oligodendrocytes, and cell proliferation (P < 0.05 vs control), but did not affect myelin expression or numbers of neurons in the cortex and subcortical regions. Etanercept delayed the rise in circulating IL-6, prolonged the increase in IL-10 (P < 0.05 vs. LPS), and attenuated EEG suppression, hypotension, and tachycardia after LPS boluses. Histologically, Etanercept normalized LPS-induced gliosis, and increase in TNF-positive cells, proliferation, and total oligodendrocytes. Conclusion: TNF inhibition markedly attenuated white matter gliosis but did not affect mature oligodendrocytes after prolonged systemic inflammation in preterm fetal sheep. Further studies of long-term brain maturation are now needed.
- Preterm infant