NIH supports ice slurry at Argonne

September 13, 2002

ARGONNE, Ill. (Sept. 13, 2002) - A promising new approach to saving cardiac arrest victims - injecting them with ice slurry - is being expanded under a new five-year, $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago's Emergency Resuscitation Center.

The grant, a Bioengineering Research Partnership from the National Institutes of Health, will allow researchers to develop ways to use the high-fluidity ice particle mixture for rapid cooling of the blood to sustain the heart and brain cells after cardiac arrests.

"In the United States alone," said Roger Poeppel, director of Argonne's Energy Technology Division, "sudden cardiac arrests strike about 1,000 people a day, and the survival rate is at best 2 percent to 4 percent. If we can improve survival rate by just 1 percent, we will save the lives of 10 people every day."

People who suffer cardiac arrests outside of the hospital have a lower chance of recovering. Ten to 12 minutes after an arrest, brain cells start dying rapidly because of lack of blood flow to the brain.

In 1999, Ken Kasza, a senior mechanical engineer who leads the research at Argonne, and Poeppel worked with collaborators Lance Becker and Terry Vanden Hoek from the University of Chicago Hospitals to develop the Emergency Resuscitation Center -- a center dedicated to studying health problems like cardiac arrests. Becker and Vanden Hoek lead the center.

When the team began their research they knew that when cells are cooled, their metabolism and their chemical processes slow dramatically. For example, a skater who falls into an icy pond can be resuscitated even after being submerged for a significant amount of time. Because external cooling works too slowly, the team proposed that the ice slurry be injected into the body to induce faster, internal cooling. Because of its high cooling capacity, ice slurry would effectively cool critical organs of the body very rapidly with just a small amount of coolant.

In the procedure, slurry would be inserted into the lungs, cooling the surrounding blood. Medics must perform chest compressions to circulate the cooled blood, allowing it to reach the brain and preserve brain cells.

Data collected by the Argonne-university team has shown that the ice slurry cools the brain by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius very quickly. The process appears to keep the brain cool for an hour, which in a real scenario would give the medics and the doctors more time to revive normal blood flow and brain activity. This would reduce the brain damage to little or none.

Kasza and Becker said the ice slurry procedure will still be secondary to defibrillation. In a real scenario, medics at a scene would immediately start with the defibrillator, but if the heart has no reaction, the medics would begin immediate cool down.

The ice slurry slowly melts in the body and is removed with a suction device on the end of the endotracheal tube.

Other goals remain for slurry, such as using it for stroke treatment, and there are many other questions researchers need to answer before continuing with tests: What is the optimal cooling level of ice slurry? What are the correct timing and protocols? What are the appropriate toxicity levels, and how much of the brain survives after ice slurry is used?

"With the grant," said Kasza, "we can further develop our tools, make even better slurry, and hopefully move closer to the point where it's possible to do human trials."
The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory conducts basic and applied scientific research across a wide spectrum of disciplines, ranging from high-energy physics to climatology and biotechnology. Since 1990, Argonne has worked with more than 600 companies and numerous federal agencies and other organizations to help advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for the future. Argonne is operated by the University of Chicago as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratory system.

DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

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