could device lower incidence of cerebral palsy around the world

Over the last decade, medical experts here in the United States and across the globe have made remarkable strides in the diagnosis and treatment of cerebral palsy, an devastating condition that can cause a host of medical problems in children ranging from vision, hearing and speech problems to muscle spasms, muscle stiffness and mobility issues.

While medical experts have yet to identify all of the causes of cerebral palsy, they have found that oxygen deprivation either during delivery or shortly after birth is one of the more frequent causes. Specifically, a child can suffer from oxygen deprivation — or asphyxia — when the umbilical cord is knotted, leading to the onset of certain brain-injury disorders like cerebral palsy.

Interestingly, research has shown that the simple process of gradually cooling the body temperature of a newborn baby who suffered from asphyxia over a span of six hours can drastically reduce brain inflammation, which in turn lowers mortality rates and the incidence of conditions like cerebral palsy.

Today, the neonatal units of most major hospitals in North America are equipped with advanced machinery capable of providing the necessary cooling for affected infants. However, the situation is much bleaker in third-world countries, where doctors often have nothing more than fans, ice and water at their disposal, and women are more prone to having knotted umbilical cords due to malnutrition, anemia or other underlying medical conditions.

Fortunately, all this may soon be changing thanks to the remarkable efforts of Johns Hopkins University students and Canadian neuroscientists.

The students have devised a so-called “Cooling Cure,” which consists of $40 worth of materials including a clay flowerpot, a burlap basket, sand, water and batteries.

Here, the burlap basket is placed inside the flower pot and keeps the child dry, while the space between the basket and the pot is packed with a mixture of sand, cooling powder and water. Thanks to evaporative cooling, the water slowly evaporates via the permeable surface of the clay flower pot, which in turn draws out the heat from the inner pot, gradually cooling the infant down.

The students also included a small microprocessor running on two triple-A batteries that monitors the skin temperature and internal temperature of the child, sending different alerts when the child is either too hot or too cold.

Thus far, Cooling Cure has shown remarkable success in clinical trials using piglets. The students are working with Canadian neuroscientists to secure a $250,000 grant from Grand Challenges Canada, a non-profit “dedicated to supporting bold ideas with big impact in global health.”

“[Cooling Cure] could change the world by reducing the incidence of cerebral palsy in underdeveloped countries by approximately 40 percent,” said Dr. Michael Johnson, a neurology professor who guided the students in the research.

Here’s hoping this technology becomes standard sooner rather than later so that parents all over the world can be provided with much-needed hope

Please contact a legal professional to learn more if you feel that the onset of cerebral palsy was due to the failure of an OB/GYN to monitor the health of your baby during the delivery or a pediatrician to diagnose a certain health issue during your child’s early development.

Source: The Toronto Star, “Invention based on clay pot could save newborns from cerebral palsy,” Diana Zlomislic, March 31, 2013

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