Project to Help Elucidate the Long-Term Effects of Anesthesia Exposure Early in Life

The International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) formally announced Ansgar Brambrink, MD, PhD of Oregon Health & Science University as the recipient of its 2012 Frontiers in Anesthesia Research Award today – the largest single grant offered by the Society in its 90 year history. IARS is awarding Dr. Brambrink $750,000 to investigate long-term consequences of anesthesia exposure in infant non-human primates (NHPs), an experimental model with high translational relevance to the human condition.

There is rapidly growing evidence that general anesthetics administered at clinically relevant doses cause widespread cell death in the brains of developing animals, potentially increasing the risk of learning, memory and behavioral impairments. Several retrospective studies have investigated the same phenomenon in humans, finding similar correlations. However, definitive evidence linking clinically relevant anesthesia practice and poor neurologic outcomes remains unavailable. Dr. Brambrink’s studies will help determine whether the negative consequences reported by others in non-human primates is also observed after multiple short exposures to general anesthesia, which should bring the scientific and medical communities closer to translating the animal data to humans.

“The proposed experiments will address a question that has potentially important public health implications – does exposure of the infant monkey brain to a clinically relevant anesthesia protocol on one occasion or on multiple occasions cause long-term neurobehavioral disturbances,” said Dr. Brambrink. “This work will also establish a non-human primate model of highest translational relevance that can be used to develop biomarkers for non-invasively monitoring anesthesia-induced developmental neurotoxic events in the primate brain, and testing strategies for preventing such neurotoxic events.”

IARS recently committed an additional $200,000 to its SmartTots Initiative, a collaborative research project designed to determine the safety of anesthetics administered to children, which was awarded to two other promising investigations this month. The Frontiers Award was not specifically designated to further SmartTots-related research; its intent is to support innovative research and is granted at the discretion of an autonomous external review board. The Award’s allocation to Dr. Brambrink highlights the profound significance of this research and the promise of Dr. Brambrink’s proposed study.

“Determining the clinical implications of this research is of the utmost importance,” said Debra Schwinn, MD, Chair of the IARS Board of Trustees. “Dr. Brambrink is a skilled and experienced researcher, and this study, partnered with the two SmartTots studies, could have profound implications for the practice of pediatric medicine.”

IARS will be closely monitoring the developments of all three studies, which are set to commence over the next month, to help inform professionals, industry, and the general population. All outcomes will be made available to the public on the IARS and SmartTots websites as soon as they become available.

“The IARS is dedicated to promoting patient safety,” said Dr. Schwinn. “We are confident these studies and the public sharing of outcomes will help ensure the safest anesthetic treatments are available for our children.”