New data  out of the University of California, San Francisco, suggests that some glucocorticoids, specifically 11-beta-HSD2–sensitive glucocorticoids such as corticosterone, might be less damaging to the fetal brain than others, such as dexamethasone. The researchers developed this data through a mouse model of glucocorticoid-induced neonatal brain injury.

Clinically, glucocorticoids are used to reduce the chance that a fetus at risk of premature delivery will develop respiratory distress syndrome, and to treat infants with life-threatening lung conditions. However, concerns often arise about the use of this therapy because, despite its effectiveness at improving lung function and reducing neonatal mortality, it adversely affects brain development and is associated with increased risk of cerebral palsy and cognitive impairment.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.