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Friday
Dec172010

Embrace Infant Warmer Could Save Thousands

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STANFORD, Calif.) -- Four Stanford University students-turned entrepreneurs have developed an innovative, inexpensive infant warmer that has the potential to save thousands of babies in the developing world.

Embrace Infant Warmers are non-electric, miniature sleeping bags that use a removable wax insert, which can be heated safely using hot water. The product is easy to sanitize and can be heated over and over again. Once the hot wax insert is placed inside the sleeping bag, it can maintain a consistent 98 degrees for four to six hours, keeping a premature or Low Birth Weight (LBW) newborn at a healthy body temperature. The team has also designed a second model for rural clinics that will use an electric heating apparatus instead of water to warm the wax.

The team's invention came out of a class assignment at Stanford's Institute of Design in 2007, when they were tasked to come up with a low-cost incubator design that could help save premature babies born into poverty.

According to World Health Organization, 20 million premature and LBW babies are born around the world every year and four million of them die within the first four weeks of life -- that's 450 babies dying every hour. Incubators are vital because the internal organs of premature babies are not fully developed at birth.

Premature and LBW babies are at an even greater risk of falling victim to hypothermia and potentially neo-natal death because there is so little fat on them. Those babies that do survive often face a lifetime of debilitating diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and weak brain development.

By 2013, Jane Chen, part of the team that designed the product, expects the Embrace will be able to save more than 100,000 babies in India and prevent illness for as many as 800,000. She and her team are planning to expand to other developing nations in the years to come.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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