Promising Low-Cost “Cooling Cure” for Newborns

May 9, 2013

When babies are deprived of oxygen before birth, brain damage and disorders such as cerebral palsy can occur. Extended cooling can prevent brain injuries, but this treatment is not always available in developing nations.

To address this need, a Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering undergraduate team has devised a low-tech $40 unit to provide protective cooling in the absence of modern hospital machines that can cost $12,000.

Called the Cooling Cure, the device aims to lower a newborn’s temperature by about 6 degrees F for three days, a treatment shown to prevent brain damage if administered shortly after a loss of oxygen.

“The students came up with a neat device that easy for non-medical people to use,” says Michael V. Johnston, a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine pediatric neurology professor. Johnson is chief medical officer and executive vice president of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an internationally recognized center in Baltimore that helps children and adolescents with disorders of the brain, spinal cord and musculoskeletal system.

Johnston and colleagues served as faculty advisors on the project, and the group has filed for a provisional patent on the device. Unveiled at the 2012 Department of Biomedical Engineering’s Annual Design Day showcase, the undergrad team worked with advisors from BME’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID).

The project won the Linda Trinh Memorial Award, which recognizes the project for its global health merit. Two students visited medical centers in India for a trip sponsored by Medical Education Perspectives, which has offered financial support for the effort. The team has reported successful animal testing of the prototype and plans to conduct human clinical trials in the near future.

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