Postnatal decrease in circulating insulin-like growth factor-I and low brain volumes in very preterm infants

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Apr;96(4):1129-35. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-2440. Epub 2011 Feb 2.


Context: IGF-I and IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) are essential for growth and maturation of the developing brain.

Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between postnatal serum concentrations of IGF-I and IGFBP-3 and brain volumes at term in very preterm infants.

Design: Fifty-one infants with a mean (sd) gestational age (GA) of 26.4 (1.9) wk and birth weight (BW) of 888 (288) g were studied, with weekly blood sampling of IGF-I and IGFBP-3 from birth until 35 gestational weeks (GW) and daily calculation of protein and caloric intake. Magnetic resonance images obtained at 40 GW were segmented into total brain, cerebellar, cerebrospinal fluid, gray matter, and unmyelinated white matter volumes.

Main outcome measures: We evaluated brain growth by measuring brain volumes using magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: Mean IGF-I concentrations from birth to 35 GW correlated with total brain volume, unmyelinated white matter volume, gray matter volume, and cerebellar volume [r = 0.55 (P < 0.001); r = 0.55 (P < 0.001); r = 0.44 (P = 0.002); and r = 0.58 (P < 0.001), respectively]. Similar correlations were observed for IGFBP-3 concentrations. Correlations remained after adjustment for GA, mean protein and caloric intakes, gender, severe brain damage, and steroid treatment. Protein and caloric intakes were not related to brain volumes. Infants with BW small for GA had lower mean concentrations of IGF-I (P = 0.006) and smaller brain volumes (P = 0.001-0.013) than infants with BW appropriate for GA.

Conclusion: Postnatal IGF-I and IGFBP-3 concentrations are positively associated with brain volumes at 40 GW in very preterm infants. Normalization of the IGF-I axis, directly or indirectly, may support normal brain development in very preterm infants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Cohort Studies
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / blood*
  • Infant, Premature / metabolism
  • Infant, Premature / physiology
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight / blood
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight / metabolism
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight / physiology
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / blood
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / analysis
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Radiography


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I