Worldwide, newborn infants suffer death or permanent brain damage caused by diseases arising before or around the time of birth. Our research groups (in Oslo, Norway and Bristol, UK) do translational research aimed at developing effective treatments against hypoxic-ischemic injury in the newborn, including prediction of severity and long term outcomes.
The neuroprotective effect of cooling (therapeutic hypothermia) was first verified in experimental models and led to clinical trials where we and others documented the same neuroprotective effect in humans. We are currently undertaking a randomised clinical trial of whether breathing the inert gas xenon during cooling improves outcomes in newborn asphyxiated infants. In experimental models explored prior to this clinical trial, xenon combined with hypothermia doubled neuroprotection as compared to hypothermia alone. Clinically, we follow up cooled infants long term at age 6-8. In the laboratory we undertake further work on xenon neuroprotection, other cooling protocols and the interaction of cooling with infection and hyperoxia, EEG, cerebral blood flow and the cardiovascular system.
By integrating studies of normal physiological changes in organ systems with pathological changes seen after hypoxic-ischemic injury, we have developed experimental models that mimic either global injury or brain haemorrhage leading to permanent disability in children.
The Bristol Therapeutic Hypothermia Clinical Guidelines and Protocol, mentioned in the editorial of the April 2015 issue of Seminars in Fetal & Neonatal Medicine about cooling therapy, can be downloaded here.