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Neonatal services

Find out what research is happening on our Neonatal Unit

Cambridge New-born Research

Research is important as it helps to advance clinical care, by identifying new treatments and strategies to improve the health and outcome of our patients. The clinical and research team in the Neonatal Unit (NICU), work closely with the Department of Obstetrics, The Rosie Hospital and the Department of Paediatrics at University of Cambridge.

The NICU is involved in many different aspects of research and has contributed to many studies, that have altered and improved neonatal clinical care. These studies span from early studies into the benefits of surfactant, to the recent Next Generation Children’s Project that revealed sequencing the whole genome of some critically ill babies and young children which can improve medical diagnosis and treatment. Both have led to changes in clinical practice.

The Cambridge New-born Research Team based at The Rosie Hospital, support research related to sick and preterm new-borns. If you are approached for your baby to be involved in a research study, you will be provided with written information, given the opportunity to ask questions and have time to consider taking part. Research is voluntary and so if you decide that you do not want your baby to take part, that is OK, and this decision will not affect your/their care, or treatment.

Research responds to new information and technology, looking for the evidence to provide the best clinical care. New studies are always starting and you may have heard of a study that is currently not on this website. Please do ask the medical, nursing and research team if you would like take part in a study that is not listed. Further information about current research studies are found on the links below.

RESEARCH STUDIES:

Cardiology

Baby-OSCAR: Outcome after selective early closure of PDA.

Babies born preterm commonly have a condition called Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), when the blood vessel Ductus Arteriosus, which allows blood to bypass the baby's developing lungs and reach the mother's placenta during pregnancy, remains open after birth.

Funded by NIHR Health Technology Assessment, Baby-Oscar is a multi-centre randomised controlled trial, co-ordinated from the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit Clinical Trial Unit, University of Oxford. The study aims to find out whether a confirmed large PDA in very premature babies should be treated with ibuprofen within 72 hours of birth.

COVID-19

PAN-COVID: Pregnancy and neonatal outcomes in Covid-19.

A global registry of women with suspected COVID-19 or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnancy and their neonates. This data will enable understanding the natural history of the infection to guide treatment and prevention.

RASCALS: Rapid assay for sick children with acute lung infection study.

Testing pregnant women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) within 4 weeks prior to delivery. Swabs will be taken during admission to hospital and clinical data collected 4 weeks after discharge home for mother/baby who are confirmed as COVID-19 positive. Funded by the Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre, this study aims to track the incidence of COVID-19 transmission between mother and baby.

RECOVERY: Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy.

The RECOVERY Trial aims to compare several different treatments that may be useful for patients with COVID-19. These treatments have been recommended for testing by the expert panel that advises the Chief Medical Officer in England.

Endocrinology and immunology

FOOTPRINTS: Clinical efficacy and safety study of SHP607 in preventing chronic lung disease in extremely premature infants.

MeCOOL: Metabolic Monitoring During Therapeutic Hypothermia for Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy.

In the UK, approximately 1200 babies per year undergo therapeutic hypothermia for hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE). Clinical management of glucose control in babies undergoing therapeutic hypothermia is challenging because of infrequent blood glucose measurements and inability to measure alternative fuels. We have used continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) to help target glucose control in extremely preterm infants who require intensive care. CGM however has not been used in babies who are being cooled. This study aims to determine if CGM can be safely used in these babies, and to use this alongside innovative methods to measure alternative fuels to optimise care of these vulnerable babies.

Neuroscience

ANIMATE: Wearable neuroimaging technologies to study infant motor development.

Extremely preterm infants are vulnerable to brain injury, and whilst the cause and nature of injury varies, one common factor is that infants who suffer a brain injury at birth often go on to develop cerebral palsy. During the first few months of life, the brain is highly adaptable, which means it is likely to be at its most susceptible to treatment. If infants with abnormal motor development could be identified early, these treatments could have the greatest chance of success.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), ANIMATE aims to develop wearable, infant-friendly optical brain imaging technology to study the development of the motor system in both healthy and at-risk infants. The overall aim of the study is to demonstrate that this technology can provide a new, objective approach to the identification and monitoring of infants with cerebral palsy.

Lending a helping hand:

Clinical and technological advances have improved the survival of babies born very preterm however, their fragile health status places these babies at risk of developmental brain injury.

Previous studies with babies at 3 months of age and born at term have shown a developmental benefit from playing with ‘sticky mittens’ Velcroâ covered mittens and toys. Sticky mittens enable babies to learn how to reach and grab toys, which may help to boost learning.

Funded by Action Medical Research, this study aims to find out whether sticky mittens can improve social and motor skills of very preterm babies.

Neonatal Sleep-Functional Connectivity:

The development of sleep during early life is crucial to future neurocognitive health and well-being. The SLEEP study uses the LUMO system of near-infrared light sources and detectors incorporated into a soft head cap to expand the current understanding of the development of neonatal sleep and brain networks.

Respiratory

OPTI-SURF:

Optimising surfactant delivery for preterm babies born below 37 weeks gestation in the UK, using national data from the National Neonatal Research Database.

Funded by Chiesi, this study aims to provide evidence-based data on the optimal delivery of surfactant and the impact on neonatal outcome to inform the development of local and national guidelines for surfactant.

Ventilation Study:

Investigating the relationship between ventilator settings and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) elimination, with the aim of identifying optimal ventilator performance and patient outcome.

Technology

NeWTS: Neonatal Wireless Transmission System.

The NICU attends to the needs of critically ill newborn babies, and uniquely, the NICU combines intensive clinical care with attending to each baby's individual developmental needs, as well as supporting the parents as they bond with their child.

Babies in NICU typically have several clinical attachments including respiratory support, blood infusion lines, and vital sign monitoring sensors. The vital sign sensors used in this environment include ECG probes (heart activity), thermistors (skin temperature), and pulse oximeters (blood oxygen saturation, SpO2). These sensors are all connected by wires to a monitoring unit outside the incubator.

Funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), NeWTS aims to develop wireless technology for vital sign monitoring. Continual vital sign monitoring with wireless devices has an anticipated benefit of enabling parents to hold their babies for skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care) with less technological distraction.

Links:

Evelyn Perinatal Imaging Centre

National Institute for Health Research

neoLAB Research

University of Cambridge, Department of Paediatrics

https://www.cuh.nhs.uk/rosie-hospital/research-rosie/cambridge-newborn-research/