We are pleased to announce that the University of Michigan’s Neonatal Asphyxia Project is the winner of our first annual HIE Help Center Scholarship. The project is led by Elliott Clark, Riley Pacella, and Saloni Jaikamal. Members include Aria Thakore, Ashley Zhang, Meghan Luoma, Jill Rajkumar, and Rachel Hsu. It is part of M-HEAL (Michigan Health Engineered for All Lives), a student organization at the University of Michigan that works across disciplines to improve global health.
Neonatal asphyxia is a leading cause of infant death. Hypothermia therapy is a cutting-edge treatment that can be very effective in treating asphyxia, but the expense makes it inaccessible in underdeveloped countries. The Neonatal Asphyxia Project Team is working with Dr. Alejandro Young, a neonatologist at Hospital Escuela Universitario in Honduras, as well as the University of Michigan Health System and the College of Engineering, to create a lower cost cooling device that can be used in Honduras and other countries with limited resources.
They will use the scholarship funds toward continuing their research and outreach efforts, and obtaining the materials they need to begin building a prototype. The next step will involve traveling to Honduras to conduct a needs assessment and test their prototype.
For more information, here is the winning essay that the Neonatal Asphyxia Project team sent in with their application:
About the Neonatal Asphyxia Project: The Team’s Scholarship Essay
Neonatal Asphyxia Project
The Neonatal Asphyxia Project Team was founded at the University of Michigan in December of 2015, with the intention of finding a smart, low-cost treatment option for asphyxia in newborn infants. It is estimated that over 900,000 infants die each year(1) from neonatal asphyxia, making it a leading cause of death for newborns, particularly in underdeveloped regions. Birth asphyxia, also known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), is a result of a lack of oxygen in neonates, sometimes through an extended or traumatic labor and delivery. Oxygen deprivation damages brain cells and can result in a variety of medical conditions depending on the duration and extent of asphyxia. After learning of these staggering statistics, our team was inspired to address this issue through engineering design with support from our parent organization, Michigan Health Engineered for All Lives (M-HEAL). Through contact with Dr. Alejandro Young, a neonatologist at Hospital Escuela Universitario in Honduras, our team identified the need to improve the brain function by minimizing damage to the brain in neonates suffering from asphyxia. While there are current solutions on the market that address this need (especially in the area of hypothermia therapy), Dr. Young expressed that for Hospital Escuela Universitario and many other hospitals in low-resource communities, access to these cutting-edge therapies is limited by their expense, among other resources.
Since identifying this need in late 2015, we have been developing a cohesive, interdisciplinary team of undergraduate students, educating ourselves on the mechanisms and current treatment options for neonatal asphyxia, and communicating with experts in HIE treatment at the University of Michigan Health System, College of Engineering, and Hospital Escuela Universitario in Honduras. We engaged in multiple conversations with emergency department physicians who utilize hypothermia therapy for adults suffering from oxygen due to a stroke or heart attack. During these meetings, we were able to learn about current mechanisms for cooling patients in order to slow cell metabolism and thus slow or stop the progression of cell death. With market research on current hypothermia therapy devices, we have begun to identify certain benchmarks for our device, such as a goal cooling temperature of 3-4 °C below normal body temperature for 72 hours. This research has also helped us to find a niche for our device: low-cost and focused on utilizing resources from the community in which it will be implemented. Of course, further research and honing in on more specific benchmarks will be major components of the work we complete this upcoming academic year.
As we move into our fourth semester as an established project team, we are excited to finalize our design benchmarks and begin the concept design phase of our project. In this phase, we will be generating various designs of a hypothermia device that utilizes different power sources (or lack thereof), cooling concepts, and physical layout. From there, we will ask for feedback from physicians and design experts at the University of Michigan, health providers at Hospital Escuela Universitario, and student members within M-HEAL. Once we have finalized our designs, we will begin prototyping.
If selected as recipients of the HIE Help Center Scholarship, we would use the funds provided to continue our research and community outreach with industry professionals. The scholarship would also allow us to obtain the materials required to start prototyping in M- HEAL’s design laboratories and workspaces at the University of Michigan. Finally, and most ambitiously, we expect the scholarship would assist us in arranging travel plans and conducting a needs-assessment trip to Hospital Escuela Universitario in Honduras (or to another community partner) to experience neonatal asphyxia first-hand in a low-resource environment and to test a prototype of our hypothermia therapy device.
A little about our parent organization, M-HEAL
M-HEAL (Michigan Health Engineered for All Lives) is a student organization at the University of Michigan that fosters interdisciplinary work in global health, design, and entrepreneurship. We engage students from various backgrounds in these efforts through guest lectures, interactive workshops, and volunteer opportunities. We support project teams as they develop health care solutions and as they travel abroad to work with international partners. In all of our activities, M-HEAL strives to cultivate a well-informed, creative, and collaborative community prepared to make a positive impact for global health.
- Lawn JE, Manandhar A, Haws RA, Darmstadt GL. Reducing one million child deaths from birth asphyxia: a survey of health systems gaps and priorities. Health Res Policy Syst 2007; 5: pmid: 17506872.
To apply for the 2018 HIE Help Center Scholarship, visit this page!