A food supplement used by athletes and body builders to boost muscle power might help to prevent brain damage and death of newborn babies from oxygen starvation, researchers say.
Problems with the placenta and umbilical cord before or during birth can reduce the fetal oxygen supply. One in 300 babies in developed countries suffers birth injuries as a result, and one in 20 babies in the UK are born by emergency caesarean section because doctors worry they may not be getting enough oxygen.
Now Zoe Ireland and David Walker at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, think they may have found a simple way to reduce the risks.
They fed pregnant spiny mice a diet containing 5% of the organic acid creatine, which can protect cells by providing energy when oxygen levels are low.
When the researchers starved the mice of oxygen just before birth, 95% of pups whose mothers had been fed creatine survived, compared to only 63% of pups whose mothers did not receive the supplement.
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