Does perinatal intermittent hypoxia affect cerebrovascular network development?

Developmental neuroscience(2023)

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Perinatal hypoxia is an inadequate delivery of oxygen to the fetus in the period immediately before, during, or after the birth process. The most frequent form of hypoxia occurring in human development is chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) due to sleep-disordered breathing (apnea) or bradycardia events. CIH incidence is particularly high with premature infants. During CIH, repetitive cycles of hypoxia and reoxygenation initiate oxidative stress and inflammatory cascades in the brain. A dense microvascular network of arterioles, capillaries and venules is required to support the constant metabolic demands of the adult brain. The development and refinement of this microvasculature is orchestrated throughout gestation and in the initial weeks after birth, at a critical juncture when CIH can occur. There is little knowledge on how CIH affects the development of the cerebrovasculature. However, since CIH (and its treatments) can cause profound abnormalities in tissue oxygen content and neural activity, there is reason to believe that it can induce lasting abnormalities in vascular structure and function at the microvascular level contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders. This mini-review discusses the hypothesis that CIH induces a positive feedback loop to perpetuate metabolic insufficiency through derailment of normal cerebrovascular development, leading to long-term deficiencies in cerebrovascular function.
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