Kansas City,
15:03 PM

Dr. Grundberg Receives Funding to Explore Why and How Age Affects Symptoms of Those Infected with COVID-19

Elin Grundberg, PhD, Genomic Medicine Center at Children's Mercy Kansas City, was recently awarded a one-year, $49,976 Frontiers Clinical and Translational Research Pilot Study grant from Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute for COVID-19 research.

Dr. Grundberg’s “Genomic and Cellular Predictors of COVID-19 in Children” aims to identify genomic and cellular predictors of COVID-19 in children by combining single-cell approaches with deep genetic sequencing.

“The outbreak of the novel coronavirus - SARS-CoV-2 causing the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has affected millions of individuals’ world-wide during the ongoing global pandemic. The severity of the disease varies dependent on preexisting health conditions and age, where children appear less symptomatic and less prone to severe illness. The underlying mechanisms for this mild COVID-19 in children remain elusive,” Dr. Grundberg said.

Dr. Grundberg’s study wants to find out why that is and her study is explained further in a Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute press release:

“For her pilot COVID-19 project, she and her research team will compare nasal swab samples taken from children and adults who tested positive for the coronavirus. Because the epithelial cells in the nose are the entry point for the virus into the body, nasal samples enable the researchers to study the body's first cellular line of defense against the virus to see how it varies by age. They will also examine nasal samples from children with infections from other types of coronaviruses, which are common in kids but not in adults, on the hunch that children's exposure to other strains has bolstered their immunity to COVID-19.

The samples will come from consenting pediatric patients and adult health care workers at Children's Mercy in Kansas City. The research team will use single-cell genomic sequencing technology to compare cellular variations between samples.

"With this technology, we can actually look at one cell at a time," Dr. Grundberg said. "That will allow us to find very small differences, or maybe even a total novel cell type, that we haven't been able to find before."

Dr. Grundberg also plans to research the genetics of those very few children who do develop severe cases of COVID-19. Hypothesizing that these kids have inherited from their parents a genetic predisposition to severe forms of the disease, she and her team will employ a technology called next-generation sequencing to detect mutations in the DNA of these children and their parents. These mutations could explain why a tiny subset of children develop severe cases of COVID-19.

Ultimately, she wants her findings to be used to help create treatments for COVID-19 and prevent a recurrence of the pandemic.”

Frontiers: University of Kansas Clinical and Translational Science Institute has awarded three one-year $50,000 pilot grants to help scientists studying COVID-19, according to their press release. More than 40 scientists submitted letters of interest. Of the eight investigators who were then asked to submit full applications, Dr. Grundberg was one of three selected to receive an award.

Co-investigators on the study include Rangaraj Selvarangan, PhD, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Todd Bradley, PhD, and Tomi Pastinen, MD, PhD, Genomic Medicine Center.


About Us

Children’s Mercy Kansas City is an independent, non-profit, 390-bed pediatric health system, providing over half a million patient encounters each year for children from across the country. Children’s Mercy is ranked by U.S. News & World Report in all ten specialties. We have received Magnet® recognition five times for excellence in nursing services. In affiliation with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, our faculty of nearly 800 pediatric specialists and researchers is actively involved in clinical care, pediatric research and educating the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists. The Children’s Mercy Research Institute (CMRI) integrates research and clinical care with nationally recognized expertise in genomic medicine, precision therapeutics, population health, health care innovation and emerging infections. In 2021 the CMRI moved into a nine-story, 375,000-square-foot space emphasizing a translational approach to research in which clinicians and researchers work together to accelerate the pace of discovery that enhances care.