Cap on brain damage

August 22, 1997

A revolutionary "cooling cap", developed by John Wyatt at University College London, could help to prevent brain damage sustained by babies during difficult births. Complicated deliveries can result in babies being starved of oxygen. This prevents structures within each brain cell storing and processing energy, causing the affected brain cells to die and leaving the baby with severe disabilities.

But the process can take a number of hours and researchers hope this could help them prevent cell death. "The chemical reactions involved in brain injury are temperature sensitive, so reducing the temperature of the brain could slow them down or stop them completely," said Dr Wyatt.

He is developing a prototype cooling cap - a helmet that will cool the head by a few degrees below its normal temperature - for trials later this year.

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