Developing low-cost treatment for neonatal asphyxia
The mission of the Neonatal Asphyxia Project (NAP) is to develop a smart, affordable device to treat neonatal asphyxia, the condition resulting from prolonged oxygen deprivation during birth that affects more than 900,000 newborns worldwide each year. Studies have indicated that hypothermia therapy is an effective treatment option for neonates with asphyxia. The therapy, which prevents toxins from injured cells in the neonate’s brain from spreading to other parts of the body by slowing the cells’ metabolisms, can be extremely beneficial. Unfortunately, access to hypothermia therapy in regions that need it most, like Central and Latin America, has been limited due to the cost of the machines that administer the treatment. In collaboration with Dr. Alejandro Young, a neonatologist from Hospital Escuela Universitario in Honduras, and Dr. William Meurer, a physician with experience in hypothermia therapy at the University of Michigan, NAP has researched neonatal asphyxia extensively and developed a set of design requirements for a novel device to administer hypothermia therapy to neonates. The completion of this rubric will allow for the evaluation of 50 designs. The final device will utilize the available resources at Hospital Escuela Universitario while successfully cooling a neonate 3-4°C for 72 hours in order to effectively treat the damaging results of asphyxia.
The Neonatal Asphyxia Project's mission is to find an innovative, affordable therapy to treat neonatal asphyxia in low-resource populations.
The Neonatal Asphyxia Project Team was founded with the intention of finding a smart, low-cost treatment option for asphyxia in newborn infants. Neonatal asphyxia is the medical condition resulting from oxygen deprivation to a newborn infant that lasts long enough during the birth process to cause physical harm, usually to the brain. It is estimated that over 900,000 infants die each year from neonatal asphyxia, but existing therapies are primitive and still in early stages of development. This makes neonatal asphyxia a leading cause of death for newborns, especially in underdeveloped regions in Central and Latin America. Research has shown that the metabolism of the cells in a newborn’s brain can be slowed down by cooling the internal body temperature for 72 hours following birth. Slowing the metabolism of the brain prevents toxins from injured cells from spreading to other parts of the brain. This method, called hypothermia therapy, has been proven to reduce the damaging effects of neonatal asphyxia, which include various developmental disorders and more than twenty percent of all cerebral palsy cases. Research has also shown that hypothermia therapy can help treat cardiac arrest patients and individuals with miscellaneous head traumas.