Sometimes babies are born premature – three weeks or more before they are due. Premature babies often have health problems. One of the most common issues is breathing problems, because the lungs haven’t fully developed yet. The immature lungs lack a specific mixture of lipids and proteins, called surfactant, which allows the lungs to expand. The current treatment for this condition is the introduction of animal surfactant through a tube in the baby’s windpipe. This method is often successful, but it’s expensive and sometimes dangerous.

This is why we wanted to test a new possible way: letting the baby inhale synthetic lung surfactant. We developed dry powders containing synthetic surfactant and tried them both in the lab and on animal models – rabbits and lambs lacking lung surfactant. Our results show that the delivery of a surfactant powder through the windpipe gives better results, but that two inhalation doses of the synthetic surfactant are a safe and effective method to improve lung function.

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About this article

Summary of research
Scientists wanted to know if inhaling synthetic lung surfactant could help premature babies with respiratory problems.
Reading level
Scientific field
Key words
NGSS standards
AP Environmental science topics
IB Biology topics
Scientific methods
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Location of research
Scientist Affiliation
Publication date
February 2020

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