Cambridge: New Baby Science Unit

2 October 2013, 06:00 | Updated: 2 October 2013, 13:31

A ground-breaking clinical research centre dedicated to studying brain development in newborns formally opens today at the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge.

The Evelyn Perinatal Imaging Centre provides facilities for life-changing research into babies' brain function, using the latest non-invasive, light based technologies.  

It is the only centre of its kind in the UK. 
The centre is based at the Rosie Hospital for maternity, women's and neonatal care. 

Its close proximity to the neonatal intensive care unit, postnatal wards and birthing suite, means both healthy and sick newborn infants in their earliest stages of life can benefit from nearby excellence.
Dr Topun Austin, centre lead and consultant neonatologist at the Rosie told Heart: "Advances in medical technology and expertise have dramatically improved survival rates for babies over the past 30 years. 

However, pre-term infants and those who suffer from a shortage of blood flow and oxygen during delivery can experience lifelong neurological problems. 

These facilities help us identify babies at risk of long-term brain injury and better understand how they respond to different treatments". 
The Evelyn Trust awarded a generous grant towards the centre following a successful application made by Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust (ACT), the hospital's dedicated charity. 

The grant funded the construction and fitting out of the centre, which houses a dedicated infant-scanning room, state-of-the-art optical imaging and EEG monitoring systems, physics laboratory and research office. 

There is also space for a dedicated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner for mothers and babies.
The grant also funds a three year research fellowship in perinatal neuroscience. 

The fellowship has been awarded to Dr Chuen Wai Lee who will be working with Dr Topun Austin on a study to investigate brain function and behaviour associated with prematurity and brain injury. 

The fellowship is one of three awarded by the Evelyn Trust this year, which provides short-term financial support to nurture the next generation of clinical academics.
Bill Pike, charity director from the Evelyn Trust, said: "The Evelyn Trust is delighted to see this facility up-and-running, and babies already benefitting from the unique blend of specialists now on hand to support them in their first hours and days of life." 
In conjunction with scientists from University College London, Dr Austin was awarded a grant from children's charity Action Medical Research in 2011. 

The award is funding his project to develop a new way to diagnose seizures in babies, which combines existing EEG technology with a new optical imaging system, work that is now being conducted in the new centre.
Dr Austin added: "A dedicated lift provides direct access between the centre and the neonatal intensive care unit, making the research process more streamlined with little disturbance for the babies and their families.

The innovative scanning kit is also used for other studies when not in use for the Action project, thereby maximising the benefits from this facility."