Blood protein profiles related to preterm birth and retinopathy of prematurity

Pediatr Res. 2022 Mar;91(4):937-946. doi: 10.1038/s41390-021-01528-0. Epub 2021 Apr 24.


Background: Nearly one in ten children is born preterm. The degree of immaturity is a determinant of the infant's health. Extremely preterm infants have higher morbidity and mortality than term infants. One disease affecting extremely preterm infants is retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a multifactorial neurovascular disease that can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. The advances in omics technology have opened up possibilities to study protein expressions thoroughly with clinical accuracy, here used to increase the understanding of protein expression in relation to immaturity and ROP.

Methods: Longitudinal serum protein profiles the first months after birth in 14 extremely preterm infants were integrated with perinatal and ROP data. In total, 448 unique protein targets were analyzed using Proximity Extension Assays.

Results: We found 20 serum proteins associated with gestational age and/or ROP functioning within mainly angiogenesis, hematopoiesis, bone regulation, immune function, and lipid metabolism. Infants with severe ROP had persistent lower levels of several identified proteins during the first postnatal months.

Conclusions: The study contributes to the understanding of the relationship between longitudinal serum protein levels and immaturity and abnormal retinal neurovascular development. This is essential for understanding pathophysiological mechanisms and to optimize diagnosis, treatment and prevention for ROP.

Impact: Longitudinal protein profiles of 14 extremely preterm infants were analyzed using a novel multiplex protein analysis platform combined with perinatal data. Proteins associated with gestational age at birth and the neurovascular disease ROP were identified. Among infants with ROP, longitudinal levels of the identified proteins remained largely unchanged during the first postnatal months. The main functions of the proteins identified were angiogenesis, hematopoiesis, immune function, bone regulation, lipid metabolism, and central nervous system development. The study contributes to the understanding of longitudinal serum protein patterns related to gestational age and their association with abnormal retinal neuro-vascular development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Proteins
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Extremely Premature
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth*
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity* / diagnosis


  • Blood Proteins