Novel Epigenetic Biomarker for Prematurity Related Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Childhood

  • End date
    May 21, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda, Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico
Updated on 21 April 2022


Preterms are early exposed to a stressful environment (i.e. excessive sensory stimulation and paucity of parental contact) with subsequent detrimental effects on brain maturation and neurodevelopmental outcomes. In contrast, early interventions seem to reduce stress exposure and promote neurodevelopment. The brain functional plasticity in response to environmental experiences can be partly attributed to changes in DNA methylation. In this context, LINE-1 (L1) promoter (18% of human genome) methylation/demethylation has been associated with L1 somatic mobilization in the brain genomes, contributing to experience-driven brain plasticity; this mechanism being deregulated in important neurological disease. This study aims at identifying and characterizing the role of L1 DNA repeats as a novel biomarker to predict long-term neurodevelopmental outcome in preterm infants. In addition, the study's secondary goal will be to define a preventive approach, based on early intervention strategies, for improving long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes.


Around 25-50% of very preterm infants suffer from neurodevelopmental delays (motor, cognitive and behavioral problems), which are most likely related to brain micro-structural defects and impaired neuronal maturation and connectivity. These alterations in brain maturation occurring during the neonatal period may be implicated in long-term neurobehavioral disorders later experienced by preterm babies.

There is increasing evidence that also stressful events (excessive sensory stimulation, paucity of parental contact and painful procedures) experienced in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) by preterm neonates can affect neurodevelopment through epigenetic mechanisms.

The brain is a genomic mosaic, owing to somatic mutations that arise throughout development. It is already established that mobile genetic elements, including LINE-1 (L1), are one source of somatic mosaicism, inducing copy number variations in neural genome. Environmental experiences can drive brain plasticity at a molecular level, with changes in DNA methylation. In particular, L1 promoter methylation/demethylation is already associated with L1 mobilization in the brain genomes and its deregulation is linked with important neurological diseases. A preliminary study has shown the correlation between L1 promoter methylation levels and preterm birth. In addition, maternal care during early life has been reported to drive variability in L1 mobilization and methylation of the neural hippocampal genome in mice models.

Several studies have reported how individualized developmental care in the NICU can ameliorate preterm infants' medical outcome and subsequent neurodevelopment. More recently, early intervention (EI) strategies based on parental training and multisensory stimulation, such as infant massage and visual stimulation, have been demonstrated to enhance child's neurodevelopment. These programs have the greatest potential to reduce environmental stress in preterms, promoting brain plasticity, optimizing dyadic interaction and ameliorating neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Condition Premature Birth
Treatment Early Intervention
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04617587
SponsorFondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda, Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico
Last Modified on21 April 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Gestational age at birth between 24+0 and 32+6 weeks
Mothers age over 18 years
Good comprehension of the Italian language
Written informed consent signed by both parents

Exclusion Criteria

Infants with major genetic disorders and malformations
Parents declined study participation
Single-parent family
Parents with obvious cognitive or psychiatric disorders and drug addiction
Clear my responses

How to participate?

Step 1 Connect with a study center
What happens next?
  • You can expect the study team to contact you via email or phone in the next few days.
  • Sign up as volunteer to help accelerate the development of new treatments and to get notified about similar trials.

You are contacting

Investigator Avatar

Primary Contact



Additional screening procedures may be conducted by the study team before you can be confirmed eligible to participate.

Learn more

If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

Learn more

Complete your scheduled study participation activities and then you are done. You may receive summary of study results if provided by the sponsor.

Learn more

Similar trials to consider


Not finding what you're looking for?

Every year hundreds of thousands of volunteers step forward to participate in research. Sign up as a volunteer and receive email notifications when clinical trials are posted in the medical category of interest to you.

Sign up as volunteer

user name

Added by • 



Reply by • Private

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur, adipisicing elit. Ipsa vel nobis alias. Quae eveniet velit voluptate quo doloribus maxime et dicta in sequi, corporis quod. Ea, dolor eius? Dolore, vel!

  The passcode will expire in None.

No annotations made yet

Add a private note
  • abc Select a piece of text from the left.
  • Add notes visible only to you.
  • Send it to people through a passcode protected link.
Add a private note