UNC researchers developing computer models for pediatric airway problems

Thu, Feb 3, 2011 — A team of UNC-Chapel Hill researchers has been awarded a $3.6 million grant to develop computer models that will allow physicians to predict which treatments will work best in children with upper airway problems.

UNC researchers developing computer models for pediatric airway problems click to enlarge This animation, created by Julia Kimbell, PhD, is an example of the team's work.

CHAPEL HILL, NC — A multidisciplinary team of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers has been awarded a $3.6 million grant to develop computer models that will allow physicians to predict which treatments will work best in children with upper airway problems.

The three co-principal investigators of the R01 grant, awarded by the National Institutes of Health, are Stephanie Davis, MD, Chief of Pediatric Pulmonology in the School of Medicine, Carlton Zdanski, MD, Chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery and Surgical Director of the North Carolina Children's Airway Center, and Richard Superfine, PhD, Professor and Director of the NIH Center for Computer Integrated Systems for Microscopy and Manipulation in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in UNC's College of Arts & Sciences.

Their project will examine computational fluid dynamic modeling of the pediatric airway in a multi-pronged effort to produce new tools to evaluate the pediatric airway and to create computer models which allow physicians and scientists to predict which medical or surgical intervention is most appropriate in specific children and with specific disease states. This study specifically examines infants and children up to 10 years old with Pierre Robin sequence (a condition characterized by small jaw and posterior displacement of the tongue causing airway obstruction) and subglottic stenosis (narrowing of the airway below the vocal cords), but the tools developed may be more applicable to other airway problems as well.


A team of UNC-Chapel Hill researchers has been awarded a $3.6 million grant to develop computer models that will allow physicians to predict which treatments will work best in children with upper airway problems.

This endeavor represents a broad collaboration between Pediatric Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, Pediatric Pulmonology, Physics and Astronomy, Mathematics, Biostatistics, Computer Science, and The North Carolina Children’s Airway Center.

Other UNC faculty members involved in the project include George Retsch-Bogart, MD, Julia Kimbell, PhD, Robert Buckmire, MD, Jason Fine, ScD, Lynn Fordham, MD, Marianne Muhlebach, MD, Sorin Mitran, PhD, Amy Oldenburg PhD, Russell Taylor, PhD and John van Aalst, MD.

The total amount of the award is $3.6 million with $2.6 million in direct costs over four years. Four additional sites were awarded similar grants via this mechanism and all centers will collaborate to share their findings and progress.

The study began in October 2010 and will take four years to complete.

Media contact: Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu

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