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Neonatal Oxygen Therapy and Altered Immunity to Respiratory Infection

Photo of microscopic stack of sectionsThis research project is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Michael O’Reilly's lab. Our goal is to understand how neonatal oxygen supplementation reprograms both lung development and the ability to respond to respiratory viral infections later in life. The rationale for the research is that premature infants often require oxygen supplementation and develop a condition called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). While many infants with BPD survive, and leave the hospital, they continue to show reduced lung function even through adolescence, and are often re-hospitalized when infected with respiratory viruses. Yet, it is unclear how early life oxygen supplementation causes these downstream consequences. To understand how short-term neonatal high oxygen treatment disrupts both lung development and the host response to influenza A virus infection, a common respiratory virus often encountered by age 2 in humans, we use a novel mouse model. Like children born prematurely, mature mice that were exposed to high oxygen as newborns have altered lung structure and function. When infected with influenza A viruses, these mice have persistent lung inflammation, altered immune cell responses, fibrosis, and poorer survival compared to infected mice that had been exposed to room air at birth. Current research efforts seek to identify which specific sub-types of immune cells function differently because of early life high oxygen exposure, and to understand how this early life therapeutic intervention affects them.

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