Developing low-cost treatment for neonatal asphyxia
The Neonatal Asphyxia Project’s mission is to build an innovative device that will mitigate the complications associated with asphyxia in neonates born in low-resource settings.
The Neonatal Asphyxia Project (NAP) was founded at the University of Michigan in December 2015 in response to a physician’s need for an accessible neonatal asphyxia treatment device. Neonatal asphyxia, which is also known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, birth asphyxia, or perinatal asphyxia, is an appropriately titled disease: it affects “neonates”, or newborns, and is caused by “asphyxia”, the insufficient oxygenation of the brain and other vital organs. The disease manifests during or shortly after birth, and can be caused by a great number of conditions, including maternal preeclampsia, infant heart or lung malformations, inadequate oxygenation of maternal blood, knotting of umbilical cord around the infant’s neck, and prolonged delivery. The oxygen deprivation causes brain damage, which can result in a variety of long-term conditions depending on the duration and extent of the asphyxia. Developmental delays and intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, seizures, motor disorders and other physical maladies can all occur in neonates who suffered birth asphyxia.
Dr. Alejandro Young, a neonatologist based in Honduras, helped our team identify a promising treatment for neonatal asphyxia: hypothermia therapy. Research has indicated that injured patients heal easier when their bodies are cold; further studies have shown that newborns are no exception. By lower an infant’s body temperature by 3-4 degrees Celsius for 72 hours immediately after delivery, physicians can expect disease progression to slow, resulting in reduced chances of severe brain damage. Unfortunately, clinics and hospitals in underserved communities around the world cannot afford the cooling devices currently on the market. On such clinic is the care centre founded by our community partners, husband-and-wife team Dr. Heena Patel and Dr. Vaibhav Patel. Hasya Newborn Care Centre is the first comprehensive neonatal hospital in the rural area of northern Gujarat, India. Its goal is to provide high-quality care for newborns through “simple, cost-effective and low technology interventions”.
Our interdisciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students has partnered with the Drs. Patel to design an intervention for neonatal asphyxia patients. We have conducted extensive research on disease mechanisms and current treatment options for neonatal asphyxia, and communicated with experts in both neonatology and hypothermia therapy at the University, in industry, and abroad. Our mentors include Dr. William Meurer, Doctor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, and Dan McCombs, PE, Chief Engineer at Stryker. They provide us with invaluable support and advice as we pursue our goal. Currently, NAP is working on prototyping and testing two of our finalized device designs.
Saloni jaikamal | email@example.com
Ashley Zhang | ASHLEYZH@UMICH.EDU
ARIA THAKORE | ATHAK@UMICH.EDU