ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center were recently awarded $1.36 million to study the effects of COVID-19 on the human lungs. For six years, researchers have been studying human lung development, but they said it’s even more important now with the onset of COVID-19.
Gloria Pryhuber is a neonatologist at URMC. She said the National Institute of Health funded study connects researchers around the country to study the human lungs and immune system and understand how they change with age.
Donated organs that can’t be used for transplant are studied for the research.
Pryhuber said now with COVID-19, it’s important to understand how a child’s lung is different than an adult’s. She said COVID seems to affect children differently, meaning they can get infected but don’t seem to get as sick where as adults are more at risk for severe disease. There’s also a chance of an inflammatory disease in children after COVID is gone and she said doctors don’t fully understand why yet.
The study will also help researchers understand if adults will experience ongoing issues with their lungs due to cover. Pryhuber said they will gather lung material for research from people who have died from COVID. She said they hope to find ways to suppress the infection or make the immune system fight the infection without injuring cells.
“Many of us as we’re watching COVID-19 around the country around the world and feeling kind of helpless about what can we do to make it better, other than wear our mask and keep away from people, so this gives us an opportunity to give back to do something that can be really important in making people’s lives better,” Pryhuber said.
She said since she also works in the neonatal unit, this will help her understand how to help babies born prematurely or with other lung diseases.
The research program has received national recognition for its unique approach in studying human lung growth.