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New system will monitor newborns to detect brain injury

Researchers based in Cork have been awarded €570,000 to develop the system.

Professor​ Geraldine Boylan, Infant centre Director, with Delphi Project Research Fellow Dr Keelin ​Murphy
Professor​ Geraldine Boylan, Infant centre Director, with Delphi Project Research Fellow Dr Keelin ​Murphy
Image: Clare Keogh

THE IRISH CENTRE for Foetal and Neonatal Translational Research (Infant) has been awarded €570,000 to develop a brain monitoring system for newborns who may have a brain injury.

The new system, known as ‘Delphi’, will help to detect the severity of brain damage as soon as possible – enabling early intervention and appropriate treatments tailored to each individual baby.

The money has been granted to Infant by the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation.

Brain injury at birth – potentially due to lack of oxygen or blood supply to the brain, sepsis and other conditions – can leave newborns with permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy and learning difficulties.

Early detection of neonatal brain injury can be vital to improve outcomes and reduce the impact of the brain damage.

While vital signs such as heart rate, respiration, temperature and blood pressure are monitored closely when newborns are in neonatal intensive care, electrical monitoring is not routinely available due to its complexity and the need for expert interpretation.

‘Enormous impact’ 

Infant Centre Director and Professor of Neonatal Physiology Geraldine Boylan said the funding “acknowledges the calibre of research capability and global impact of the work that we are doing”.

Boylan added that the two-year research project will have “enormous impact on newborn brain health research and provide a new and ‘smart’ way of monitoring the brains of newborns so the earliest and most appropriate treatment can be delivered”.

The Delphi project will create a prototype monitoring system that will analyse neonatal electrical brain patterns and combine this data with other vital sign information to provide an overall brain health index for the baby.

Each year 1.15 million babies develop encephalopathy (impaired neurological function) at birth. The goal is to integrate the new system into cot-side patient monitoring of all infants admitted to neonatal intensive care units.

Since its launch in 2015, Science Foundation Ireland’s Infant research centre - which is based at University College Cork and Cork University Maternity Hospital – has won over €30 million in research funding from national and EU programmes, industry and philanthropic investment.

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Órla Ryan

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