Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the leading cause of death from gastrointestinal disease in the preterm infant. The dismal results of current treatment for NEC highlight the urgent need for greater understanding of the pathogenesis of this disease, and the importance of discovering novel, molecular-specific therapies for it. Current dogma indicates that NEC development reflects an abnormal response by the premature infant to the microbial flora that colonizes the gastrointestinal tract, although the mechanisms that mediate these abnormal bacterial-enterocyte interactions and the reasons for the particularly increased susceptibility of the premature infant to the development of NEC remain incompletely explained. Recent evidence has shed light on an emerging role for the Toll-like receptors (TLRs) of the innate immune system as central players in the pathways that signal in response to enteric bacteria resulting in the development of NEC. We now review recent advances in the field of NEC and identify several exciting potential avenues for novel treatments by focusing on abnormal TLR4 signaling in the premature intestine in the pathogenesis of NEC. In so doing, we seek to offer new hope to the patients and their families who are affected by this devastating disorder.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health