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Better protection for the neonatal brain

Around one in ten children is born preterm. The brain is particularly vulnerable in preterm infants. Insults during this time of brain development can subsequently lead to motor deficits, cognitive limitations, attention deficits, learning difficulties and even severe disabilities.

Within the EU project NEOBRAIN (Neonatal Estimation Of Brain Damage Risk And Identification of Neuroprotectants), scientists will collaborate in order to identify strategies to diagnose and to protect the newborn brain against such insults.

International partners

In NEOBRAIN, small and medium enterprises collaborate with academic research groups. The project links scientists from a total of 13 partner institutions. The involvement of the companies provides a unique opportunity for using the research results in product development without delay. Publication of project findings in high-profile journals will disseminate new research results and resulting applications on an international level. Scientific coordinator for the entire EU project NEOBRAIN is Prof. Dr. Olaf Dammann from Hannover Medical School, Germany. Patent research and press information will be coordinated in Innsbruck.

Name of participating organisation (Short name,City, Country)
Medizinische Hochschule Hannover (MHH, Hannover, Germany)
BIOCRATES life sciences GmbH Innsbruck (BIOCRATES, Innsbruck, Austria)
BrainZ (BrainZ, Auckland, New Zealand)
Bioanalyt GmbH (BIOANALYT, Potsdam, Germany)
University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU, Utrecht, Netherlands)
Göteborgs universitet (UGOT, Gothenborg, Sweden)
Institut National de la santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM, Paris, France)
Université de Genève-Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (UNIGE, Geneva, Switzerland)
Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin (CHARITÉ, Berlin, Germany)
Università degli Studi di Siena (UNISI, Siena, Italy)
Lunds Universitet (ULUND, Lund, Sweden)
Economic impact
Medical progress has reduced infant death considerably. This also means that the number of preterm babies that survive is rising steadily. Of the roughly four million live births per year within the EU, 40,000 preterm babies are at highest for brain damage. Almost half the individuals with cerebral palsy (41 percent) are born preterm.

In addition to the worry for parents and relatives of prematurely born children, the increasing number of premature babies also has economic effects: across the EU, between six and seven billion euros per year are spent on treating premature babies. It is not possible to apply the results of medical research obtained in adults reliably to premature babies. Therefore the medical profession faces the problem that not only is there no marker for early diagnosis of brain damage, there is also no prophylaxis or therapy that protects the brain.

New approaches in research

It is precisely at this point that the NEOBRAIN comes in. The EU research project, which runs for three years, aims to:

1. find biomarkers for early brain damage. In various animal tests the mechanisms leading to brain damage will be investigated. Moreover, a clinical study of children born before the 28th week of pregnancy is planned in order to develop marker profiles.

2. develop strategies for protecting the brain. Here too animal tests will be carried out. Only the most promising results will find their way into clinical research.

3. create a clinical platform as research network for future European and international studies.

4. develop medication within the three year project period and beyond.

The results of neonatal basic research will thus feed directly into clinical research. New findings and therapeutic approaches gained in this way will be introduced rapidly into clinical practice in neonatal intensive care.

- project volume 4.4 million euros
- grant volume 3.3 million euros

Mag. Uwe Steger | alfa
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