by Gus Iversen
, Editor in Chief | November 13, 2020
Portable MR manufacturer, Hyperfine, is initiating a global research program supported by a $1.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to investigate whether its technology can be deployed in low-resource countries to identify and potentially mitigate labor- and delivery-related brain damage resulting in HIE (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy) in infants.
The foundation's interest in the program stems from the utility and applicability of low-field MR imaging to deliver accessible neuroimages that could identify birth asphyxia-related brain injuries and provide an opportunity for therapeutic intervention. In addition, portable MR imaging technology could assess brain volume and detect malnutrition in the first year of life, providing an opportunity for early nutritional interventions.
The grant will support the deployment of 20 Swoop devices to investigators and will fund the program for the next two years. Ten devices will be sent to leadership sites to validate protocols for research programs and explore data outcomes, and another ten devices will be sent to lower resource settings in which birth-related brain injuries and malnutrition are persistent and access to MR technology is limited.
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HIE is caused by birth asphyxia or limited blood flow to the brain, often occurring before or during birth, and is estimated to affect about 1.5 per 1,000 live births. According to the World Health Organization, it is the fifth leading cause of death worldwide in children under the age of 5, with the incidence of HIE higher in countries with limited resources. The most important current treatment for HIE is therapeutic hypothermia (cooling the infant's brain), and current guidelines recommend that this treatment commence as soon as possible after the injury and within 6 hours of birth.
The Swoop devices will start shipping to identified sites in 2020, and all 20 systems will be delivered by the Spring of 2021.