From Vaccines To The Effect On Foster Kids, 6 Ways CCHMC Is Exploring Pandemic's Impact

May 26, 2020

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center researchers have no shortage of ideas. Beginning today, they will start six new projects in hopes of gaining a better understanding of how COVID-19 affects the body and certain segments of the population.

A news release says, the research announced Tuesday, will be funded internally and is aimed at understanding and defeating the virus that causes COVID-19.

"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."

Here's what scientists will be studying:

Developing SARS-CoV-2 Nanoparticles As A Potential Vaccine

The research team will be producing small quantities of the particles as a platform to display antigens from the novel coronavirus. Other studies have shown that the nanoparticles are less risky than traditional vaccine-making methods and are faster to produce. Eventually mouse studies and human clinical trials will be needed to confirm if the vaccine works, how much the dose should be and how long it will last.

Understanding The Heart Damage Caused By The Virus 

Because the coronavirus attacks not only the lungs but also the heart, researchers will try to understand how the virus interacts with heart tissue at the molecular level. Scientists could use their discoveries to develop tests and treatments to reduce potential future heart complications and prevent deaths.

How COVID-19 Affects Children With Sickle Cell Disease?

Children with sickle cell disease (SCD) have a 56-fold increased risk of hospitalization when they are infected by influenza. This is because viral infections can trigger acute chest syndrome and other complications. What's unclear is how COVID-19 affects SCD patients. Scientists will use blood samples already being collected to test for COVID-19 infection. They say this and related data will help determine the risk and potential ways to reduce it.

How Teens With ADHD Cope With The Disruption?

Researchers hypothesize that the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic might be especially hard for adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The news release says:

As it happens, Stephen Becker, Ph.D., 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 On Foster Youth

The pandemic is causing disruptions in the care and support systems that foster youth depend on. Researchers want to know how well the families are doing with telehealth technology vs. in-person conversation and what might be needed to maintain support for these children.

Mary Greiner, MD, MS, medical director for the CHECK Foster Care Center; and Sarah Beal, Ph.D,. a developmental psychologist at Cincinnati Children's, are working to find out.

COVID-Miner

To fully understand this pandemic, it's likely researchers will need plenty of "big data." A biomedical informatics expert with experience in machine learning is developing a tool called COVID-Miner to extract important information from thousands of scholarly articles as part of the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset. The articles have been assembled by the While House and leading research groups.