Background Sepsis remains one of the leading causes of infant death worldwide. It is characterized by uncontrolled inflammatory responses due to proven bacterial infection. Despite improvement in supportive care and the availability of effective antibiotics, no specific therapy targeting the dysregulated inflammatory response is available for neonatal sepsis. Milk fat globule epidermal growth factor-factor 8 (MFG-E8) is a secretory glycoprotein abundantly present in human milk. MFG-E8 suppresses the systemic inflammatory responses in adult murine injury models by improving the clearance of dying cells. We hypothesized that exogenous administration of recombinant mouse MFG-E8 could inhibit the exaggerated inflammatory response and lung injury in a murine model of neonatal sepsis. Methods Neonatal sepsis was induced in 5- to 7-day-old male and female C57BL6 mice using an intraperitoneal injection of cecal slurry. At 1 hour after sepsis induction, a single dose of 40 μg/kg recombinant mouse MFG-E8 or vehicle was administered via retro-orbital injection. All neonates were returned to their mothers as a group. At 10 hours after cecal slurry injection, pups were killed and blood and lung tissues were collected. Control mice underwent a similar procedure with the exception of cecal slurry intraperitoneal injection. Results Serum lactate dehydrogenase, IL-1β, and IL-6 were significantly increased 10 hours after cecal slurry injection. Treatment with recombinant mouse MFG-E8 decreased these levels by 30%, 56%, and 37%, respectively. Lung morphology was significantly compromised in the vehicle group after cecal slurry injection, whereas the recombinant mouse MFG-E8–treated groups demonstrated a 48% improvement in the lung injury score. Lung IL-6 and MIP-2 protein levels were significantly reduced with recombinant mouse MFG-E8 treatment. Lung neutrophil infiltration as observed by Gr-1 staining and, TUNEL-positive cells were also significantly reduced with recombinant mouse MFG-E8 treatment. Conclusion Treatment with recombinant mouse MFG-E8 attenuated inflammation and lung injury in murine neonatal sepsis. Thus, MFG-E8 could be developed as a possible therapy for neonatal sepsis.
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