Preterm birth is a primary cause of worldwide childhood mortality. Bronchopulmonary dysplasia, characterized by impaired alveolar and lung vascular development, affects 25-50% of extremely low birth weight (BW; <1 kg) infants. Abnormalities in lung function persist into childhood in affected infants and are second only to asthma in terms of childhood respiratory disease healthcare costs. While advances in the medical care of preterm infants have reduced mortality, the incidence of BPD has not decreased in the past 10 years. Reactive oxygen intermediates play a key role in the development of lung disease but, despite promising preclinical therapies, antioxidants have failed to translate into meaningful clinical interventions to decrease the incidence of lung disease in premature infants. In this review we will summarize the state of the art research developments in regards to antioxidants and premature lung disease and discuss the limitations of antioxidant therapies in order to more fully comprehend the reasons why therapeutic antioxidant administration failed to prevent BPD. Finally we will review promising therapeutic strategies and targets.
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