There is an important unmet need to develop interventions that improve outcomes of hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE). Creatine has emerged as a promising neuroprotective agent. Our objective was to systematically evaluate the preclinical animal studies that used creatine for perinatal neuroprotection, and to identify knowledge gaps that need to be addressed before creatine can be considered for pragmatic clinical trials for HIE.
Methods: We reviewed preclinical studies up to 20 September 2021 using PubMed, EMBASE and OVID MEDLINE databases. The SYRCLE risk of bias assessment tool was utilized.
Results: Seventeen studies were identified. Dietary creatine was the most common administration route. Cerebral creatine loading was age-dependent with near term/term-equivalent studies reporting higher increases in creatine/phosphocreatine compared to adolescent-adult equivalent studies. Most studies did not control for sex, study long-term histological and functional outcomes, or test creatine post-HI. None of the perinatal studies that suggested benefit directly controlled core body temperature (a known confounder) and many did not clearly state controlling for potential study bias.
Conclusion: Creatine is a promising neuroprotective intervention for HIE. However, this systematic review reveals key knowledge gaps and improvements to preclinical studies that must be addressed before creatine can be trailed for neuroprotection of the human fetus/neonate.
Keywords: brain injury; creatine; hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy; neuroprotection; perinatal encephalopathy; phosphocreatine.