Improving the Lives of Premature Infants

An ARDC-supported virtual lab is helping premature infants have a better chance at healthy lives.
A premature baby foot with a bandage and tubes coming from it

The Problem: Doctors are reluctant to use proven drugs on premature babies due to potential side effects

Premature babies often have breathing problems and chronic lung disease, a result of having immature lungs and prolonged ventilation.

To alleviate these serious health issues, the use of non-invasive respiratory treatments are now the aim of neonatal care. A group of drugs are known to promote lung development in these infants, however, doctors have been reluctant to use them due to concerns about neurological harm.

The Approach: Investigating the real impact of these drugs with the help of high-powered data processing and management

A team of researchers led by Dr Nathanael Yates, an Australian brain specialist and research fellow at the Queensland Brain Institute, used high powered magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate the impact of different drug therapies on brains.

The study, which required extensive computer capacity and imaging, was accomplished with the help of an innovative tool called the Characterisation Virtual Laboratory (CVL).

The CVL, which is supported by the Australian Research Data Commons, streamlines the integration of imaging instruments with specialised high-speed computing. As a result, researchers like Dr Yates can access the data quickly, allowing them to run and modify experiments in real time, without having any special computing skills.

Having access to this high speed, integrated tool allowed Dr Yates and his team to quickly and accurately assess the neurological safety of these drugs.

The Outcome: Doctors and parents now have more accurate information about the safety of crucial, life-saving drugs

The research provided physicians with evidence that a class of drugs had no obvious negative effects on brain structure within certain timeframes.

The results are helping alleviate concerns about these vital drugs and allowing them to be used to improve the health of premature infants.

The research’s use of innovative data and technology is also leading the way for further insights into neuropathology.