Around one in 1,000 babies born at full term in the UK suffer brain injury as a result of being severely deprived of oxygen. In the past, 70% either died, or survived with cerebral palsy and/or learning disabilities. Marianne Thoresen, Professor of Neonatal Neuroscience at the University of Bristol, wanted to see if there was a way to prevent damage caused by lack of oxygen.
Marianne’s research demonstrated that by cooling new born piglets down by just a few degrees, starting soon after the injury, protected their brains from damage caused by lack of oxygen. The research paved the way for clinical trials which showed that cooling reduced injury in many affected children and challenged the centuries-old practice of keeping sick babies warm. Since 2010, cooling has become the recommended way to treat lack of oxygen at birth throughout the developed world. For example, in Bristol, only 26% of cooled babies die or develop disability after severe oxygen deprivation.