A new campaign has been launched by The University of Nottingham to raise £115,000 for the development of a heart rate monitor that could mean the difference between life and death for the one in 10 babies born every year requiring resuscitation.
The tiny Heartlight sensor is a hands-free electronic device that allows doctors and midwives to continually monitor a baby’s heart rate during resuscitation.
It could eventually replace the traditional stethoscope method of monitoring heart rate which is open to human error, interrupts resuscitation and can fail to detect sudden and serious changes to a baby’s medical condition.
The Heartlight sensor, being developed by Dr Barrie Hayes-Gill, Dr John Crowe and Dr Mark Grubb in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in collaboration with neonatologists Dr Don Sharkey in the University’s Division of Human Development and Professor Neil Marlow at the Institute of Women’s Health, UCL, uses a small optical probe attached to the baby’s hat to measure changes in blood flow under the skin of the baby’s forehead to detect the baby’s pulse.
Dr Don Sharkey said: “There are more than 700,000 babies born every year in the UK and, while most come into the world healthy and without a problem, around 70,000 newborns do need some form of resuscitation.
“When a newborn baby fails to establish a normal breathing pattern, every second counts. The longer a baby goes without oxygen, the greater the risk of developing long-term disabilities including physical and learning impairment. The Heartlight sensor will allow doctors and midwives to continue resuscitating the baby without the need for frequent pauses to check the heart rate thus ensuring smoother and quicker resuscitation reducing the risk of long-term damage.”
Following successful evaluation on healthy adults, the technology is currently being put through its paces in a multi-phase patient trial at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust’s Queen’s Medical Centre campus in which it will be trialled on babies on the neonatal intensive care unit who have made a full recovery, full-term babies delivered by elective caesarean section and finally babies in the delivery suite born prematurely at between 24 and 36 weeks.
Initial development of the device is being funded through the support of the charity Action Medical Research. Now, The University of Nottingham has launched a campaign to fund the next stage of the project, which will see improvement to the ergonomic design of the hat-mounted sensor and the extraction and processing of data collected by the device. This funding is essential in order to develop the prototype sensor further to ensure it continues to move towards routine clinical use so that every baby who requires resuscitation has the opportunity to be better monitored.
The researchers will also look at the possibility of using the sensor to detect newborn breathing rates and explore the use of the sensor in other ‘wearables’ such as wrist and ankle bands.
Dr Barrie Hayes-Gill said that the initial research had delivered a reliable device which, with further development, had the potential to become the clinical gold standard for the resuscitation of newborn babies.
He added: “By supporting this campaign, people have the opportunity to make a real difference to the health and survival of sick and vulnerable babies, giving them the best chance of a healthy start in life.”
Anyone who would like to donate to the Heartlight Sensor Appeal can contact Emma Pearson in The University of Nottingham’s Development Office on +44 (0)115 951 3724 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's ‘only truly global university’, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.