Albumin administration prevents neurological damage and death in a mouse model of severe neonatal hyperbilirubinemia

Vodret, Simone; Bortolussi, Giulia; Schreuder, Andrea B.; Jašprová, Jana; Vitek, Libor; Verkade, Henkjan J. and Muro, Andrés F. (2015). Albumin administration prevents neurological damage and death in a mouse model of severe neonatal hyperbilirubinemia. Scientific reports, 5, article no. 16203.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/srep16203

Abstract

Therapies to prevent severe neonatal unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus are phototherapy and, in unresponsive cases, exchange transfusion, which has significant morbidity and mortality risks. Neurotoxicity is caused by the fraction of unconjugated bilirubin not bound to albumin (free bilirubin, Bf). Human serum albumin (HSA) administration was suggested to increase plasma bilirubin-binding capacity. However, its clinical use is infrequent due to difficulties to address its potential preventive and curative benefits, and to the absence of reliable markers to monitor bilirubin neurotoxicity risk. We used a genetic mouse model of unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia showing severe neurological impairment and neonatal lethality. We treated mutant pups with repeated HSA administration since birth, without phototherapy application. Daily intraperitoneal HSA administration completely rescued neurological damage and lethality, depending on dosage and administration frequency. Albumin infusion increased plasma bilirubin-binding capacity, mobilizing bilirubin from tissues to plasma. This resulted in reduced plasma Bf, forebrain and cerebellum bilirubin levels. We showed that, in our experimental model, Bf is the best marker to determine the risk of developing neurological damage. These results support the potential use of albumin administration in severe acute hyperbilirubinemia conditions to prevent or treat bilirubin neurotoxicity in situations in which exchange transfusion may be required.

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