4 Million Euros Awarded to the International UniPD Project for Premature Babies


Coordinated by the University of Padua, the goal of the Prometeus - Preterm and Metabolic EU-Sensing: Feed the Brain project is to develop a non-invasive new approach to measure and improve brain health in premature infants held in intensive care.  The European Innovation Council (EIC) awarded 4 million euros to the visionary research project with a strong focus on technological development.

The number of premature babies overcoming the critical postpartum stage has steadily increased over the years thanks to improvements in neonatal intensive care, while the number of premature babies developing cognitive, sensory, or motor deficits during their lifetime has increased. The main cause of these deficits is due to their inability to manage the metabolic control of the nutrients necessary for brain development before birth. During pregnancy, foetuses are completely dependent on the mother for nutritional supplies.  Babies born prematurely, some weighing only 600 grams, have a less developed metabolism than a full-term newborn leading to care that includes managing their nutrients intravenously.

Controlling the dietary regimen intravenously is determined by empirical guidelines in the absence of a system capable of simultaneously monitoring both the health of the infant's brain and the number of elements necessary for cerebral well-being. Among these are three key elements (metabolites): glucose, lactate, and ketones, which are dependent on the nutritional intake and levels essential for the well-being and growth of newborn brains.

Sabrina Brigadoi and Alfonso Galderisi are the two young University of Padua researchers who developed the Prometeus project. The project coordinator, Sabrina Brigadoi is a neuroscientist at the Department of Developmental and Socialization Psychology and Alfonso Galderisi is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Specialist (Neonatologist) at the Department of Women's and Child Health.

Brigadoi explains, The Prometeus project will lead to a significant reduction in the number of premature babies developing cognitive, motor, or sensory deficits over the years. By making the devices used for monitoring the state of cerebral hemodynamics, doctors will be able to intervene quickly during acute adverse events thus decreasing the probability of unfavourable consequences for the newborn. The Prometeus project opens the door to a new digital era of neonatal intensive care management."