Children's Hospital Colorado

Research Grant Funds Study of Complications Related to COVID-19

Children's Hospital Colorado | December 23, 2020

University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado announced they received an Emerging Respiratory Viruses Research grant from the American Lung Association. The grant will be used to better understand how complications from COVID-19 impact the lungs. More specifically, it will focus on studying the complications of COVID-19 and efforts to defend against similar future respiratory virus pandemics.

Grant is part of an investment to end COVID-19

The $100,000 per year grant over the course of two years is part of the American Lung Association’s COVID-19 Action Initiative, a $25 million investment to end COVID-19 and defend against future respiratory virus pandemics. While COVID-19 is known to attack organs throughout the body, the lung disease caused by SARS-Cov2 is the main cause of death in patients with COVID-19.

Kurt Stenmark, MD, professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, chair of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and head of the division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and Cardiovascular Pulmonary Research at Children’s Hospital Colorado and University of Colorado School of Medicine has focused his career on better understanding Pulmonary Hypertension in childhood and across the lifespan. According to Dr. Stenmark, the funding from the American Lung Association will allow a team of investigators from departments across the campus to study whether the virus’ attack of lung endothelial cells in the smallest pulmonary blood vessels leads to activation of immune proteins called complement as well as cell injury.

Study will examine lung cells for injury and inflammation

“It appears that in COVID-19, the activated complement, which is usually beneficial against invading organisms, leads to endothelial cell injury. This in turn causes cell death, increased inflammation and clotting,” said Dr. Stenmark. “We will test this hypothesis in studies using human lung endothelial cells from the small vessels of the lung infected by SARS-Cov2 and subjected to lack of oxygen (hypoxia), which is a frequent complication in patients with COVID-19. In addition, we will examine human lung tissue from patients who died of COVID-19 to show lung endothelial injury, evidence of virus infection, complement activation and inflammation.”

The American Lung Association awards the most promising research with this grant

The American Lung Association has a long history of awarding research grants to the most promising research projects. In this first award cycle, Dr. Stenmark’s study was one of 12 research awards from more than 200 applications.

Ultimately, this research could lead to treatments that minimize COVID-19 lung damage

“These studies can lead to ways to better understand the impact of the virus on our lungs, and perhaps ultimately to identifying therapies to minimize lung endothelial cell injury and related inflammation and harm from COVID-19,” said American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer Albert Rizzo, MD. “Even after we have a vaccine for COVID-19, many people will continue to be infected with the virus. Advancing research to protect the health of those infected with COVID-19 will be critical to saving lives and turning the tide against this deadly disease.”