For nasal application of neurotrophins and mesenchymal stem cells, successful delivery to the brain and therapeutic effects are known from experimental data in animals. Human breast milk contains neurotrophins and stem cells, but gavage tube feeding in preterm infants bypasses the naso-oropharynx. This is a first exploration on additional nasal breast milk and neuromorphological outcome after severe neonatal brain injury. We present a retrospective summary of 31 very low birth weight preterm infants with intraventricular hemorrhage °3/4 from one third-level neonatal center. All were breast milk fed. Sixteen infants additionally received nasal drops of fresh breast milk daily with informed parental consent for at least 28 days. Cerebral ultrasound courses were reviewed by a pediatric radiologist blinded to the intervention. The main outcome measure was severity of porencephalic defects before discharge. Clinical covariates were comparable in both groups. With nasal breast milk, a trend to a lower incidence for severe porencephalic defects (21% vs. 58%) was detected. Incidences were lower for progressive ventricular dilatation (71% vs. 91%) and surgery for posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus (50% vs. 67%).Conclusion: The hypothesis is generated that early intranasal application of breast milk could have a beneficial effect on neurodevelopment in preterm infants. Controlled investigation is needed. What is Known: • Successful delivery to the brain and therapeutic effects are known for nasal application of neurotrophins and mesenchymal stem cells from experimental data in animal studies. • Human breast milk contains neurotrophins and stem cells, but gavage tube feeding in preterm infants bypasses the naso-oropharynx. What is New: • This is the first report on additional nasal breast milk application in very low birth weight preterm infants with severe brain injury observing a trend for less severe porencephalic defects. • The hypothesis is generated that nasal breast milk might exert neuroprotective effects in preterm infants.
Keywords: Breast milk; Nasal application; Neonatal brain injury; Neurotrophins; Stem cells.