Severe jaundice, a condition that causes a baby's skin to temporarily turn yellow, can be prevented, according to a study published by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
The study, conducted entirely on mice and still in its early stages, was released on Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers identified a protein that inhibits an enzyme from breaking down buildup of the molecule bilirubin—which causes jaundice in newborns. They said a method to block that protein could provide a therapeutic approach to preventing and treating the condition.
"This is the first report that describes the molecular processes that dictate the onset and control of the most medically worrisome form of jaundice in newborns, a condition known as severe neonatal hyperbilirubinemia," said study co-author Robert Tukey, PhD.
Tukey, a professor of pharmacology at UCSD School of Medicine, added that the study will help researchers find drugs or dietary therapeutics to combat jaundice.
According to the study, high levels of bilirubin in a newborn's brain can cause seizures, encephalopathy, life-long brain damage, and in some cases, even death.