The Section of Pediatric Pulmonology, Allergy and Sleep Medicine is involved in basic, translational and clinical research. Mentorship of fellows is a top priority for the section and the faculty has extensive expertise in helping fellows achieve research goals. Specific areas of interest within the section include cystic fibrosis, asthma and allergic diseases, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and specialized physiologic testing.
The Section has successfully been awarded funding from the NIH, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and ALA
The Department of Pediatrics at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health RANKS in the TOP 10% in NIH funding. The research environment is strong; this is enhanced by the Herman B. Wells Center for Pediatric Research and the recently developed Pediatric Translational Research Center that is located within the hospital.
In addition, the Section of Pediatric Pulmonology, Allergy and Sleep Medicine at Riley Hospital for Children has a history of participating in NIH sponsored studies including those that are investigator initiated as well as studies that are part of large networks.The Section consists of 21 faculty members: 14 Pediatric Pulmonologists, 2 Allergists and 5 Ph.D. scientists. Dr. Stephanie Davis serves as the Director of the Section.
The Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research
Allergic diseases are increasing in frequency in Western society and represent a significant health concern and are an area of research for this program. Atopic dermatitis, allergic skin inflammation or eczema, is often the first step on the allergic march, a series of allergic responses localized to the nares (allergic rhinitis), esophagus (eosinophilic esophagitis) and the airways (allergic asthma). The severity of these diseases can vary from mild annoyances to life-threatening illness. The overall goal of this research program is to understand the initiation, pathogenesis and progression of these allergic diseases in the hopes of identifying better ways to treat or prevent allergic symptoms. Research spans many areas from examining the regulation of genes important for the development of T cells involved in allergic inflammation, to the biology of cytokines and other factors that promote allergic disease, to examining lung development and function and how changes contribute to lung reactivity to allergens. Research involves animal models of allergic inflammation, as well as patient studies of infants and children with atopic dermatitis and developing airway disease. For detailed information about the types of research being conducted, see Pulmonary Inflammation/Asthma & Allergic Diseases in the Wells Center for Pediatric Research.
The Pediatric Translational Research Center is newly developed and includes bioinformatics, rooms for patient exams, a wet laboratory for processing of specimens, biobanking, freezer space and administrative/office space. Integration is part of this research center and Pediatric Pulmonology, Allergy and Sleep Medicine will have space in this area. Advanced diagnostics are also part of this area including genomic and proteomic work, cell phenotyping and mass spectrometry.
Asthma - As asthma is characterized by airway hyper-responsiveness, our research program also evaluates novel mechanisms that can reduce airway smooth muscle contractility, as potential therapeutic interventions to treat patients with asthma. One approach has been to decrease airway smooth muscle contractility by applying mechanical strain to the airways, by the application of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which decreases airway responsiveness. Another approach has been to inhibit p21-activated protein kinases (PAKs), which can inhibit airway smooth muscle contractility, as well as inhibit the atopic pulmonary inflammatory response, makes it a unique target in its potential to suppress both bronchoconstriction and allergic inflammatory responses.
Lung growth and development is another important area of current research. Our laboratories have focused upon understanding the pulmonary pathophysiology of the lung disease that occurs following premature birth. Our research is also evaluating biomarkers associated with the pulmonary dysfunction that occurs following premature birth. In addition, we have a unique collaboration in Argentina, where we evaluate the effects of chronic hypoxia upon lung growth and development in infants living at very high altitude.
Another area of interest includes bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). The Section works closely with neonatology to evaluate the natural history of this disease and to better understand early markers that define the BPD phenotype. Investigators within the Section participate in both single center and multi-center work; thereby, providing another opportunity for fellows. A strength of the Section is the ability to perform novel imaging and physiologic measurements in these young children with different types of lung disease. We believe that early lung disease likely tracks into adulthood; therefore, highlighting the importance of better understanding pathophysiology and potential therapeutic markers.
The Section participates in a number of research trials within the cystic fibrosis community and is part of the Therapeutic Development Network. In addition, investigator initiated trials evaluating early lung disease in cystic fibrosis is a priority and the Section has a long history of performing lung function testing in both infants and preschoolers. Some investigators within the Section specifically focus on cystic fibrosis and early pathogenesis. Many fellows choose to focus within this area and successfully obtain funding from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for these projects.