2012 Little Giraffe Foundation Neonatal Grant Awards

After long deliberations, the Little Giraffe Foundation decided to fund 4 projects for 2012, totaling $12,000 – 2 Neonatal Research Grants to forward medical care for premature babies and 2 NICU Support Grants designed to improve the lives of the families and babies in the NICU.


Neonatal Research Grants

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School - $5,000 Awarded

Research: Improving weight gain, feeding, and cardiorespiratory outcomes in very low birthweight preterm infants by providing them with a more womb-like environment
Emily Zimmerman, PhD, CCC-SLP and Amir Lahav, ScD, PhD

To examine if providing very low birthweight (VLBW; <1500g) infants with maternal stimulation, consisting of both sounds and vibrations, during their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) hospitalization will improve their weight gain, feeding skills, and cardiorespiratory outcomes.
Forty VLBW infants will be randomly assigned to stay in either a Vibro-Acoustic Bed (VAB) or a Routine Hospital Bed (RHB) throughout the course of their NICU stay. Infants in the VAB group will receive maternal stimulation via innovative vibro-acoustic technology. The VAB provides infants with: (1) auditory stimulation of their mother’s voice via micro-audio speakers installed at the bedside; and (2) vibro-tactile stimulation of their mother’s heartbeat via micro-subwoofers embedded within the mattress of the infant’s bed. Infants randomized to the RHB group will receive the standard care and serve as controls.

We hypothesize that exposure to maternal stimulation, consisting of both sounds and vibrations, will provide VLBW infants with the essential womb-like environment necessary to complete their normal maturation outside of the womb and will have immediate short term effects on weight gain, feeding, and cardiorespiratory outcomes. In the long term, our research may increase the potential of sick babies to develop into healthy children, free of disability.

State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center - $5,000 Awarded

Research: Effects of Caffeine on Preventing Periventricular Leukomalacia in Preterm Infants
Hsiu-Ling Li, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology
Agnes Perenyi, M.D. Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Joanne Katz, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Physical Therapy

Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is the predominant form of brain injury in premature infants and accounts for most of the neurologic morbidity encountered in survivors of premature birth. The innermost space in the brain consists of four fluid-containing sacs, called ventricles. Periventricular zone refers to brain tissue surrounding the ventricles. In developing brains, this area is occupied by neural/glial progenitor cells and nerve fibers that control the body’s muscles and is nourished by numerous thin-walled blood vessels. PVL is caused by a lack of oxygen or blood flow to this area, leading to damages to the nerve fibers and progenitor cells.

Selective depletion of oligodendroglial lineage (OL) progentior cells in periventricular area is thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of motor and cognitive deficits in preterm infants with PVL. Thus, it is of clinical importance to identify novel pharmacological agents to protect OL progenitors from ischemic insults.

Caffeine is widely used in NICU to stimulate respiration in premature infants for its safety and cost effectiveness. Recent studies have suggested a protective effect of caffeine on OL precursors after hypoxic ischemia, but the efficacy may vary depending on the developmental age. Here, we propose to perform a systemic analysis, combining both experimental models and clinical approach to determine the effects and kinetics of caffeine on protecting OL progenitors and preventing PVL.


NICU Support Grants

Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesberg, MS - $1,000 Awarded

The Forrest General Hospital CARING Pantry

The Forrest General Hospital (FGH) NICU needs resources to assist the parents of the children in their NICU. FGH services 19 rural counties. Many of the parents of their NICU children have low income and limited resources. In the past, FGH staff has fed these families with their own funds because of their committed compassion. They will be starting a formal food pantry designated for the NICU families. The pantry would be called the CARING Pantry. The CARING Pantry will have vouchers to the hospital cafeteria and healthy snacks such as soup, peanut butter crackers, applesauce, granola bars, trail mix, and fruit cups.

DCH Foundation, Tuscaloosa, AL - $1,000 Awarded

Helping NICU Families Bond with their Babies

DCH Regional Medical center's NICU volumes average l6 babies daily. Many of the babies are from the 11-county service area, in predominately rural west Alabama, where parents may not have the monetary resources to visit their babies daily, or even weekly. A permanent fund has been established at the DCH Foundation to assist parents with transportation to visit their babies. Approximately one to three families receive assistance monthly, averaging a cost of $75 - $ 100 per month. Due to current funding limitations, distributions from this fund provide parents an $ 18 gas card for weekly visits with their baby. There are also parents who may need assistance that are not currently receiving assistance.

The DCH Foundation will be using their funds to assist in purchasing additional gas cards. It is their hope that the funds will allow them to offer more than one visit per week to parents who truly need to bond with their babies and also offer assistance to more families.

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Please consider donating a toy to a preemie during this particularly difficult time for families with babies in the NICU!