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Nicola Robertson

Professor Nicola Robertson

Professor Nicola Robertson

Research Fellow

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Advancing Neuroprotective Therapies using the Piglet Perinatal Asphxyia Model

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Organisation: University College London

Dates: Jan 2014-Dec 2018

Value: £50,000

Summary: My research focuses on understanding fundamental mechanisms of perinatal brain injury using magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy; the aim is to develop novel neuroprotective strategies to improve the outcome of infants with neonatal encephalopathy. My pre-clinical model has become a valuable and unique resource at UCL to investigate the safety and efficacy of neuroprotective drugs using clinically relevant MR biomarkers. As I also work as a clinical neonatologist, one of the powerful and unique aspects of my research is its translational potential. Therapeutic hypothermia is already used as a partially effective and safe therapy for babies with neonatal encephalopathy in the UK; despite therapy, however, around 50% of babies still have adverse outcomes. We are currently working on a new melatonin formulation that is safe to give to babies in high doses to see whether melatonin combined with cooling provides better protection compared to cooling alone. In other projects we are studying the safety and efficacy of dexmedetomidine, argon and magnesium-augmented cooling. My neuroprotection research is aimed at targeting all settings and includes practical and economical therapies such as postconditioning and melatonin. I have worked for periods in Uganda and understand the different risk factors and treatment options for neonatal encephalopathy in low and high resource settings. I have taught neonatal neurology in Peru, South Africa, India, Japan and throughout Europe. My work over the next 5 years will focus on developing a model of neonatal encephalopathy relevant to low resource settings where infection and inflammation are strong risk factors for neonatal encephalopathy. The aim is to define optimal, safe and effective neuroprotective treatments for inflammation-sensitised brain injury where cooling may not be the best treatment. My 5-10 year goal is to translate our findings from the pre-clinical model to clinical settings through collaboration and RCTs across the world.

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