Hot prospects for cool heads
An important point of differentiation for the Cool Head device is that it doesn’t depend on mains electricity. It can be powered from a one-hour rechargeable battery and from a standard 12V paramedical vehicle source.
This means that continuous cooling is available from the earliest point of intervention at the scene of the incident right through to a hospital intensive care unit.
Another distinctive feature is that it can provide warming. “Neurosurgeons have told us that it’s very important for the brain to be re-warmed again on a very gradual, incremental basis. A lot of devices purely apply cooling jets of air or, in some cases, insert cooling chemicals up through the nasal passages. They can’t warm,” explains Mears.
Now in possession of a patent, Eurolec isn’t cracking open the Champagne just yet. Mears admits that medical devices are a new departure for the company, and next on his agenda will be getting clinical data, backed by a serious research institute, to attract a partner.
“We have done in-house testing with the helmet in place, measuring the temperature of the tympanic membrane in the ear, which seems to be the closest one could get to the brain temperature on a simulated basis. But it’s not quite the real thing,“ he acknowledges.
“Some discussions had pointed to invasive testing, which would require regulatory oversight, as the next step, but we felt that was beyond our financial resources and scope.”
Instead Eurolec has developed an associated company, Oriel Medical devices, and commissioned the Neuroscience Department at Trinity College Dublin to carry out non-invasive testing, supported by a €5,000 grant from Enterprise Ireland.
The team, headed by Prof Shane O’Mara, is using EEG sensors to explore changes in the pattern of electrical activity in the brain with changing temperature. This, coupled with motor and cognitive tests with different volunteers while the cooling helmet is in place, should allow them to make certain deductions on the effectiveness of the device.
“It’s not as quantifiable as sticking a temperature probe into someone’s skull with a Black and Decker,” says Mears. “But it seems to be close to the next best thing.“
Anxiously awaiting the results, he envisages numerous other possibilities for the device. The addition of different snap-fit attachments could allow sports organisations and racehorse owners to apply heating and cooling to soft tissue injuries or to improve temperature control during the transfer of human organs harvested for transplantation.