News | April 12, 2011

Award to Promote Research Into MRI on Newborns at High Risk of Brain Injury

April 13, 2011 – The Wellcome Trust has awarded a Strategic Translation Award to GE Healthcare for research into the potential use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for newborns at high risk of brain injury. This marks the first time GE Healthcare will collaborate with Wellcome Trust to extend the reach of MRI technology.

In the United Kingdom, approximately five in every thousand babies born suffer brain injury and of those, approximately one in five die. Babies that survive early brain injury are at high risk of developing long-term neurological problems. Improving the speed and accuracy of diagnosis into brain problems in babies is essential for improving clinical outcomes.

Ultrasound technology is most commonly used to image newborns that are at high risk of developing brain injury, largely because the technique can be performed within the neonatal unit at the hospital. MRI is widely accepted as being a better diagnostic tool; however in many centers it is not practical to take babies to an MRI scanner, which is usually located in another part of the hospital. As a result, the risk of removing a baby from the protective environment of the neonatal intensive care unit usually outweighs the potential benefit to be gained from MRI as a more sensitive imaging technique.

The award will initially be used to investigate how MRI could be placed within the neonatal unit itself, removing the need to transfer the infant. This research will lead to a better understanding of the technology required to care for infants in a neonatal intensive care environment.

“I am delighted that this partnership will facilitate the development of MRI imaging tailored to the needs of doctors caring for vulnerable young lives,” said Ted Bianco, director of technology transfer at the Wellcome Trust.

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