OAA Medium Project Grant

The successful applicant for the OAA Medium Project Grant was:

Principal Applicant
Dr Daqing Ma
Imperial College London

Novel strategy in preventing the neurotoxicity of nitrous oxide when used for labour pain relief


Scientific Abstract
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a widely used analgesic and anaesthetic adjunct. One of its most common applications is as a labour analgesic which can be self-administered by the mother. The gas is used in a 50%-50% mixture with oxygen to ensure adequate pain relief and oxygenation. It has been reported that usage during labour is as high as 60%. Recently however, studies have shown nitrous oxide has a neurotoxic potential in rodent studies. Argon, on the other hand, is showing increasing evidence as to its neuroprotective potential. This neuroprotection, coupled with the low cost of the gas make it an inviting and highly beneficial area of research.

The aim of this study is to determine the effects of anaesthetic exposure on both primary cortical and hippocampal neuronal cell cultures and using a neonatal in vivo model. By studying the effects on cell viability, apoptotic potential and neuroprotective potential of either N2O or argon alone or in combination, it would be possible to study mechanistic pathways. It is likely that mitochondrial instability underlies the neurotoxic potential of N2O, and since argon is a known upregulator of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins this may explain its neuroprotective actions.

Please see the NIAA's position statement on the use of animals in medical research.