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LITTLE ROCK, AR (April 21, 2021) — A National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant awarded to Arkansas Children’s Research Institute will help scientists at Arkansas Children’s and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) take a big step toward verifying a genetic target for potential treatments that reduce life-threatening asthma attacks in children.
A team led by Joshua Kennedy, M.D., principal investigator, and researchers in California and New Mexico will use the two-year $250,000 grant to confirm whether the specific genetic mutation holds the key to asthma attacks made worse by the common cold.
Kennedy has focused his research since 2013 on severe asthma that occurs when children also have a rhinovirus infection, a virus that causes the common cold. Between 60% to 80% of children who seek emergency treatment for asthma also have a rhinovirus.
The NIH-funded study will attempt to isolate a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP, also referred to as a genetic “snip”) that might make asthmatics more susceptible to rhinovirus infection in a collaboration between Kennedy; David Broide, M.D., at the University of California, San Diego; and Daryl Dinwiddie, Ph.D., at the University of New Mexico.
“If we can connect this genetic SNP variant to enhanced viral infections, I think that is a huge breakthrough for kids everywhere with asthma,” said Kennedy, an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, Division of Allergy and Immunology who sees patients at Arkansas Children’s. “If we are able to sequence that SNP and know who has it and who is at higher risk, I think we can come up with treatments that are focused on decreasing the number of asthma exacerbations these kids have and improve their quality of life overall.”
Broide is expert in the specific SNP (ORMDL3 asthma risk variant) and will conduct the genotyping. DNA samples collected from patients at Arkansas Children’s will go to Broide’s lab for SNP analysis. Dinwiddie will assist Kennedy with genomic sequencing of the rhinoviruses found in patients.
The study will look at two groups of patients: those with asthma who have the SNP variant and those with asthma who don’t have it. The study will conduct additional analysis based on the type of rhinovirus. Of the three rhinovirus types, A, B and C, Kennedy said Type A rhinovirus may cause more severe exacerbations in those with the SNP because the ORMDL3 mutation increases the receptor for this virus on cell surfaces.
Kennedy will also use donated human lungs in his lab to compare responses to rhinovirus infections in lungs with the SNP mutation and those without it. Slices of donated so-called “living lungs” can be preserved and revived to conduct such tests.
Kennedy’s research has received financial and other support from the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute; the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, the major research component of Arkansas’ Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000; and the UAMS Translational Research Institute, which is funded by a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) from the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. His early research of asthma exacerbations was supported by the UAMS institute’s KL2 Mentored Research Career Development program, which provided two years of funding and translational science training. Kennedy and Dinwiddie also received a CTSA-funded inter-institutional pilot grant to support their asthma research.
ABOUT ARKANSAS CHILDREN’S
Arkansas Children's, Inc. is the only healthcare system in the state solely dedicated to caring for Arkansas' more than 700,000 children. The private, non-profit organization includes two pediatric hospitals, a pediatric research institute and USDA nutrition center, a philanthropic foundation, a nursery alliance, statewide clinics, and many education and outreach programs — all focused on fulfilling a promise to define and deliver unprecedented child health. Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) is a 336-bed, Magnet-recognized facility in Little Rock operating the state’s only Level I pediatric trauma center; the state's only burn center; the state's only Level IV neonatal intensive care unit; the state's only pediatric intensive care unit; the state’s only pediatric surgery program with Level 1 verification from the American College of Surgeons (ACS); the state’s only magnetoencephalography (MEG) system for neurosurgical planning and cutting-edge research; and the state's only nationally recognized pediatric transport program. Additionally, ACH is nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report in four pediatric subspecialties (2020—2021): Cardiology & Heart Surgery, Nephrology, Pulmonology and Urology. ACH is one of only five hospitals in the nation that have achieved Magnet Status, ACS Level 1 verification and a Beacon award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Arkansas Children’s Northwest (ACNW), the first and only pediatric hospital in the Northwest Arkansas region, opened in Springdale in early 2018. ACNW operates a 24-bed inpatient unit; a surgical unit with five operating rooms; outpatient clinics offering over 20 subspecialties; diagnostic services; imaging capabilities; occupational therapy services; and Northwest Arkansas' only pediatric emergency department, equipped with 30 exam rooms. Generous philanthropic and volunteer engagement has sustained Arkansas Children's since it began as an orphanage in 1912, and today ensures the system can deliver on its promise of unprecedented child health.
UAMS is the state’s only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS’ clinical enterprise including its hospital, regional clinics and clinics it operates or staffs in cooperation with other providers. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. U.S. News & World Report named UAMS Medical Center the state’s Best Hospital; ranked its ear, nose and throat program among the top 50 nationwide; and named six areas as high performing — cancer, colon cancer surgery, heart failure, hip replacement, knee replacement and lung cancer surgery. UAMS has 2,727 students, 870 medical residents and five dental residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.