(From the December 2013 issue of Research Now)
Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) complicates the course of chronic lung disease (CLD) in newborns and contributes to late morbidity and mortality during infancy, especially in the setting of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Wide phenotypic variability exists among preterm infants of similar gestational ages making it difficult for physicians to predict which infants are at increased risk for developing PH.
To reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with PH among infants with BPD, Dr. Backes’ team has developed a multidisciplinary approach aimed at improving outcomes in this highly vulnerable patient population.
The team’s primary effort is to implement a systematic and comprehensive screening protocol using bedside echocardiography to diagnose PH among at-risk infants earlier in their course. The team, which includes Dr. Cliff Cua, Dr. Christina Phelps, Dr. Leif Nelin, Urbee (Disha) Haque, MS, Brian Rivera, MS, and Bernadette Richards, MS, hypothesizes that routine echocardiographic screening and tracking of subsequent outcomes will allow them to determine if they can diagnose and manage PH before it becomes severe and possibly irreversible.
In addition, Backes’ lab will work to better understand the pathophysiology of the preterm pulmonary vascular bed in an effort to improve patient outcomes through recognizing pathways that are dysregulated in PH, identifying novel biomarkers, and testing novel treatments.
The preliminary data from these efforts will support larger clinical translational studies aimed at developing treatment guidelines and preventative strategies that can be used to reduce the burden of disease.