Increased research to improve preclinical models to inform the development of therapeutics for neonatal diseases is an area of great need. This article reviews five common neonatal diseases – bronchopulmonary dysplasia, retinopathy of prematurity, necrotizing enterocolitis, perinatal hypoxic–ischemic encephalopathy and neonatal sepsis – and the available in vivo, in vitro and in silico preclinical models for studying these diseases. Better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of specialized neonatal disease models will help to improve their utility, may add to the understanding of the mode of action and efficacy of a therapeutic, and/or may improve the understanding of the disease pathology to aid in identification of new therapeutic targets. Although the diseases covered in this article are diverse and require specific approaches, several high-level, overarching key lessons can be learned by evaluating the strengths, weaknesses and gaps in the available models. This Review is intended to help guide current and future researchers toward successful development of therapeutics in these areas of high unmet medical need.
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