The impact of trophic and immunomodulatory factors on oligodendrocyte maturation: Potential treatments for encephalopathy of prematurity

Glia. 2021 Jun;69(6):1311-1340. doi: 10.1002/glia.23939. Epub 2020 Nov 30.


Encephalopathy of prematurity (EoP) is a major cause of morbidity in preterm neonates, causing neurodevelopmental adversities that can lead to lifelong impairments. Preterm birth-related insults, such as cerebral oxygen fluctuations and perinatal inflammation, are believed to negatively impact brain development, leading to a range of brain abnormalities. Diffuse white matter injury is a major hallmark of EoP and characterized by widespread hypomyelination, the result of disturbances in oligodendrocyte lineage development. At present, there are no treatment options available, despite the enormous burden of EoP on patients, their families, and society. Over the years, research in the field of neonatal brain injury and other white matter pathologies has led to the identification of several promising trophic factors and cytokines that contribute to the survival and maturation of oligodendrocytes, and/or dampening neuroinflammation. In this review, we discuss the current literature on selected factors and their therapeutic potential to combat EoP, covering a wide range of in vitro, preclinical and clinical studies. Furthermore, we offer a future perspective on the translatability of these factors into clinical practice.

Keywords: cytokines; myelination; neuroinflammation; oligodendrocyte; preterm brain; trophic factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Brain Injuries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Neuroinflammatory Diseases
  • Oligodendroglia*
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth
  • White Matter