A new project led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) that aims to improve our understanding of inflammation in childhood lung diseases has been awarded a prestigious $USD525,000 grant. 

MCRI's Dr Melanie Neeland and Professor Sarath Ranganathan along with Associate Professor Alicia Oshlack from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre have today received a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) Single-Cell Analysis of Inflammation award.

Dr Neeland said the project would involve analysing lung samples collected from healthy and unwell children, using advanced single cell technologies and new analytical tools, to describe lung inflammation in childhood disorders such as asthma, bronchiectasis and lower respiratory tract infections.

Globally, acute lower respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of death among children under five years of age.

"Childhood pulmonary diseases cause both significant illness and death. Inadequate lung development leads to impairment in adult life," Dr Neeland said.

"Given this, optimal treatment of childhood pulmonary disease not only relieves suffering in childhood but also protects long term lung function." 

Dr Neeland said information was lacking about the cause of pulmonary diseases and the cells involved.  

"Many childhood pulmonary diseases stand out because of their unusual inflammatory response, but a major barrier in describing these diseases has been the availability of specific tissue samples collected in early life," she said.

"This will be the first project to use patient lung samples from young children in this way, with the goal of informing strategies to improve clinical care and pulmonary health throughout life."

Professor Ranganathan said childhood pulmonary diseases disproportionately affected people in low and middle income countries as well as patients from underserved populations in high income countries. 

"Childhood wheezing and asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood and has traditionally been associated with high income countries, however the rates in low and middle income countries are increasing.

They also see the most severe cases," he said.

"Even within high income countries, children from a low-income background suffer disproportionately increased  ill health from asthma." 

The CZI grants are awarded for two-year collaborative pilot projects focused on the role of inflammation in maintaining health and triggering disease. 

The project will start recruiting participants in September.

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Dr Melanie Neeland
Professor Sarath Ranganathan

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Murdoch Children's Research Institute
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About CZI

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that's leveraging technology to help solve some of the world's toughest challenges – from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice and Opportunity, we're pairing engineering with grant-making, impact investing, and policy and advocacy work to help build an inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, visit www.chanzuckerberg.com.