Wellcome Trust backs INFANT brain monitoring project

Delphi
Prof of Neonatal Physiology at UCC​ Geraldine Boylan with Delphi Infant research fellow Dr Keelin ​Murphy

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9 February 2018 | 0

The Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) in University College Cork, has been awarded €570,000 by the global charitable foundation Wellcome Trust, to develop a smart brain monitoring system for newborns that may have brain injury.

Named ‘Delphi’, the new system will help to detect the severity of brain damage as soon as possible enabling early intervention and appropriate therapies tailored to each individual baby.

Brain injury at birth, potentially due to lack of oxygen or blood supply to the brain, sepsis and other conditions, can leave newborns with permanent disabilities such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy or learning difficulties. Early detection of neonatal brain injury can be vital to improve outcomes and reduce the impact of the brain damage. While vital signs such as heart rate, respiration, temperature and blood pressure are monitored closely when newborns are in neonatal intensive care (NICU), electrical monitoring (EEG) is not routinely available due to its complexity and the need for expert interpretation.

The Delphi project will create a prototype monitoring system using modern deep learning techniques that will analyse neonatal electrical brain patterns and combine this data with other vital sign information to provide an overall brain health index for the baby. Ultimately this system will be integrated into cot-side patient monitoring of all infants admitted to neonatal intensive care units. The artificial intelligence project team will be led by INFANT research fellow Dr Keelin Murphy, an expert in machine learning, specifically deep learning and overseen by centre director Prof Geraldine Boylan.

INFANT centre director and Professor of Neonatal Physiology Geraldine Boylan said: “This award by Wellcome Trust acknowledges the calibre of research capability and global impact of the work that we are doing at INFANT. We are delighted to partner with the Wellcome Trust on this two-year research project, which will undoubtedly have enormous impact on newborn brain health research and provide a new and smart way of monitoring the brains of newborns so the earliest and most appropriate treatment can be delivered.”

Delphi has the potential to become a globally adopted solution that will improve outcomes for newborns with brain injury all over the world.

Since it’s launch in 2015, the Science Foundation Ireland INFANT research centre, based at University College Cork and Cork University Maternity Hospital, has won more than €30 million in research income from national and EU programmes, industry and philanthropic investment.

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