Borhan and Bascom receive grant to study respiratory disease in modeled lungs

By Mindy Krause
August 19, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ali Borhan, professor of chemical engineering, and Rebecca Bascom, professor of medicine, have been awarded one of two Grace Woodward Grants for Collaborative Research in Engineering and Medicine for the 2016-2017 project period.

The pair was awarded $50,000 for their proposal, “Patient-Specific Diagnosis and Treatment of Respiratory Disease: Expanding the Engineering Toolbox.”  

The study will use anatomically accurate lung reconstructions modeled by data obtained from patient volunteers at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to predict individuals’ reactions to inhaled toxic substances including environmental gasses, cigarette smoke, and other carcinogenic substances through numerical simulations.

The researchers will evaluate the distribution of gases in proximal airways to better understand which sites are particularly susceptible to tissue injury. Results may serve as a guide to create and tailor new diagnostic procedures and improve treatment plans for patients with lung disease.

“We plan to examine absorption in both healthy and diseased lung models to identify any significant differences caused by the disease-modified structures of the proximal airways,” said Borhan. “If the absorption of harmful gasses occurs more intensely in some areas than others, we will be able to identify those areas as ‘hot-spots’ and target efforts to treat and prevent injury more proactively.”

The study will examine lung reconstructions of both male and female patients of varying physical statures. The work will serve as a first step in predicting patient-specific outcomes by developing disease-specific models of exposure-dose relationships for inhaled toxicants.

The concept for the research was first developed by Borhan and Bascom with the help of Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering James Ultman when the trio served together on several doctoral committees. The researchers identified a critical gap in respiratory science that has prevented information from animal lung studies to be directly translated into human pathophysiology.

Borhan and Ultman, who have a history of studying ozone uptake in the respiratory tract of primates, have been interested in applying their expertise in animal lung modeling to human applications. Bascom has extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of respiratory disorders as a clinician at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Together, and with the help of a co-advised graduate student, the researchers will work collaboratively between the Penn State University Park campus and Penn State Hershey Medical Center to conduct lung modeling and numerical analysis and diagnostic interpretation.

Preliminary work on the project began earlier this year and is planned to continue throughout the two-year project period.

The Grace Woodward Grants for Collaborative Research in Engineering and Medicine are given annually by the Penn State Colleges of Engineering and Medicine, and are made possible by the support of endowments from the estate of Grace Woodward, a longtime friend and supporter of the University. The program is designed to encourage genuine collaborations between engineers and clinicians or biomedical scientists that involve either new avenues of research or the feasibility testing of new medical devices, instrumentation or other diagnostic or therapeutic modalities.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 19, 2016