Thrasher Research Fund - Medical research grants to improve the lives of children

Project Details

Early Career

Status: Funded - Open

Longitudinal Immune Profiling of Preterm Infants

Benjamin Fensterheim, MD, PhD


BACKGROUND: Prematurity is the leading cause of infant mortality worldwide and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), which entails significant respiratory morbidity and mortality for years after birth, is one of the major comorbidities of prematurity. GAP: Inflammation is one of the defining pathologic features of BPD and some immunologic changes can be detected in the blood before diagnosis. However, there is no blood test to predict the diagnosis of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants because our understanding of preterm infant immunity is murky. HYPOTHESIS: This study hypothesizes that the peripheral blood preterm immune profile changes over time after birth in a manner defined by corrected gestational age. Additionally, we hypothesize that there are features of an immune profile that distinguish preterm infants who develop BPD from those who do not. METHODS: We will scavenge soon-to-be-discarded whole blood from clinical labs sent every two weeks from preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania and create a comprehensive cellular and protein immune profile from each sample, allowing us to track changes in the immune system over time and as infants develop or do not develop BPD. RESULTS: Pending. IMPACT: This study, once followed by a validation study, will open the opportunity for physicians to use a simple blood test to stratify preterm infants by their risk of BPD. Once risk stratified, preterm infants at high risk of BPD could receive early targeted or intensive interventions for BPD, hopefully reducing the morbidity of BPD. Website Link:

Supervising Institution:
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

E. John Wherry

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