Inhaled vitamin A is more effective than intramuscular dosing in mitigating hyperoxia-induced lung injury in a neonatal rat model of bronchopulmonary dysplasia

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2020 Sep 1;319(3):L576-L584. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00266.2020. Epub 2020 Aug 5.


Prevention of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in premature-birth babies continues to be an unmet medical need. Intramuscular vitamin A is currently employed in preterm neonates to prevent BPD but requires intramuscular injections in fragile neonates. We hypothesized that noninvasive inhaled delivery of vitamin A, targeted to lung, would be a more effective and tolerable strategy. We employed our well-established hyperoxia-injury neonatal rat model, exposing newborn rats to 7 days of constant extreme (95% O2) hyperoxia, comparing vitamin A dosed every 48 h via either aerosol inhalation or intramuscular injection with normoxic untreated healthy animals and vehicle-inhalation hyperoxia groups as positive and negative controls, respectively. Separately, similar vitamin A dosing of normoxia-dwelling animals was performed. Analyses after day 7 included characterization of alveolar histomorphology and protein biomarkers of alveolar maturation [surfactant protein C (SP-C), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) γ, cholinephosphate cytidylyl transferase, vascular endothelial growth factor and its receptor, FLK-1, and retinoid X receptors (RXR-α, -β, and -γ], apoptosis (Bcl2 and Bax) key injury repair pathway data including protein markers (ALK-5 and β-catenin) and neutrophil infiltration, and serum vitamin A levels. Compared with intramuscular dosing, inhaled vitamin A significantly enhanced biomarkers of alveolar maturation, mitigated hyperoxia-induced lung damage, and enhanced surfactant protein levels, suggesting that it may be more efficacious in preventing BPD in extremely premature infants than the traditionally used IM dosing regimen. We speculate lung-targeted inhaled vitamin A may also be an effective therapy against other lung damaging conditions leading to BPD or, more generally, to acute lung injury.

Keywords: chronic lung disease of prematurity; inhalation dosing; lung injury repair; preterm birth; vitamin a palmitate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Lung Injury / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia / metabolism*
  • Hyperoxia / metabolism*
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Vitamin A / metabolism*


  • Pulmonary Surfactants
  • Vitamin A