David Edwards is a consultant neonatologist at the Evelina London Children's Hospital and Professor of Paediatrics & Neonatal Medicine at King's College London. He has studied the mechanisms of perinatal brain damage, working to reduce death and severe neurological impairment caused by: (a) birth asphyxia, which kills more children than malaria with the annual global loss of 50 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALY); and (b) brain abnormalities associated with preterm birth, which annually causes 77 million lost DALY, the 8th highest of the 291 conditions assessed by the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study.
He has made two principal contributions:
• He discovered that the mechanism of birth asphyxia critically includes the triggering of massive neural apoptosis. He found that reduced temperature interrupts a post-asphyxial apoptotic programme and with colleagues around the world translated this discovery into the first successful treatment for birth asphyxia, now in routine use across the world.
• He implemented Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to study very preterm infants, installing an MRI scanner in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to allow the sickest and most vulnerable infants to be engaged in research programmes. He showed that the predominant problem after preterm birth is a widespread disruption of brain development, and discovered biochemical and genetic evidence of inflammatory mechanisms of damage which are candidates for therapeutic intervention.
He now leads the €15m European Research Council Developing Human Connectome Project, which is making available over 1000 fetal and neonatal brain MR images to allow researchers to study the development of brain connectivity in the perinatal period His work made him in 2007 only the second British winner of the prestigious Arvo Ylppo International Gold Medal and €50,000 Prize, presented by the Finnish National Academy once every 5 years. Many members of his research group have gone on to become professors and/or department heads in major institutions.
He directs the Centre for the Developing Brain in King’s College London and the King’s Health Partners Institute for Women & Children’s Health.
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