CINCINNATI, May 26, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- From developing a potential vaccine based on nanoparticles to tracking how the pandemic has disrupted life for foster children, scientists at Cincinnati Children's have launched six projects aimed at understanding and defeating the virus that causes COVID-19.
The projects, announced today (May 27, 2020), have received a combined $450,000 in internal funding from Cincinnati Children's.
"These projects were selected by a panel of senior research leaders at Cincinnati Children's from more than 35 proposals," says Hector Wong, MD, interim Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and interim Director of the Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation. "We deeply appreciate the swift, creative and enthusiastic response of our faculty to this global health crisis and we look forward to seeing the results of these important research efforts."
Developing SARS-CoV-2 nanoparticles as a potential vaccine
Ming Tan, PhD, a virology expert who has developed "P particles" and "S particles" for use against norovirus, rotavirus, and other infectious diseases, is collaborating with Xi Jiang, PhD, to engineer nano-sized pieces of the SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus for potential use as a vaccine against COVID-19.
The concept calls for employing the team's S60 particle as a platform to display antigens from the novel coronavirus. In previous studies, Tan has shown that these nanoparticles pose less risk than traditional vaccine-making methods, and can be faster to produce.
Once small quantities are produced, mouse studies and human clinical testing will be needed to confirm that the vaccine works, to determine the correct dose, and to determine its "shelf life."
Understanding the heart damage caused by the virus at a molecular level
Beyond assaulting the lungs, scientists have discovered that the novel coronavirus also can cause significant heart damage.
Now Jeffery Molkentin, PhD, Director of the Division of Molecular Cardiovascular Biology, is teaming up with Steve Standage, MD, an expert in critical care medicine to lead a multi-center research effort to understand how the virus interacts with heart tissue at the molecular level.
The results could help researchers develop tests and treatments to help prevent deaths and reduce potential future heart complications caused by the new virus.
How does COVID-19 affect children with sickle cell disease?
The medical community has known for some time that viral infections can trigger acute chest syndrome and other complications of sickle cell disease (SCD). Studies also have shown that children with SCD that become infected by influenza have a 56-fold increased risk of hospitalization compared to other children.
Small wonder then that the emergence of COVID-19 sparked concern among experts at Cincinnati Children's who have devoted years to improving outcomes for this inherited condition. Now,
Patrick McGann, MD, MS, will lead a project to learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting the SCD population here in Cincinnati, in Africa, and in the Caribbean.
They plan to use blood samples already being collected within existing research studies to test for COVID-19 infection. This and related data will help establish how much risk people with sickle cell face from a COVID-19 infection, and potentially suggest ways to reduce that risk.
How do teens with ADHD cope with pandemic-related disruption?
Families facing job losses. Long weeks stuck at home instead of seeing friends at school. Major disruptions in routines and traditions. Widespread fear and anxiety about the future. Non-stop news.
The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been immense for everyone, but perhaps especially so for adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
As it happens, Stephen Becker, PhD, a clinical psychologist, has been working to track more than 260 teens with and without ADHD to compare their coping skills related to emotions, sleep, academics, media use, family relations and more. Now the team plans to extend this study to track changes that have occurred during the pandemic.
The impact of COVID-19 on foster youth
Children growing up in the foster care system have experienced vast amounts of disruption to their lives. Now, the care and support systems that foster youth depend upon are facing new disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.
How well are these families doing at communicating via telehealth technology vs. in-person conversation? Who loses access? What else might be needed to maintain support for these children?
COVID-Miner: an artificial intelligence tool for supporting pediatric care
This pandemic is big and fully understanding its impacts will require plenty of "big data."
Biomedical informatics expert Yizhao Ni, PhD, has extensive experience in using the concepts of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to help computers "learn" as a form of artificial intelligence.
Now Ni is applying those skills to the pandemic by developing a tool called COVID-Miner to extract vital information from more than 59,000 scholarly articles assembled by the White House and leading research groups as part of the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19).
SOURCE Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center