How Gender Differences can affect the Lung Development of Premature Patients
Background and Significance
More than one in ten babies are born prematurely, leaving them highly vulnerable to infection and other complications which can result in death. One of the more serious complications of a child who is born prematurely is the lack of lung development and functionality. Unlike children born at the standard gestational period, children who are born prematurely are less likely to survive due to numerous complications that they can develop; however, if they do survive, they are much more likely to suffer from secondary lung complications which will have long term effects well into adolescence. Furthermore, since males and females possess different hormonal systems, gender could play a role in the maturation of their lungs because sex hormones exert regulatory effects on human lung development prior to and during the neonatal period.
My hypothesis is that vessels in prematurely born females will grow more slowly and be less developed than those of prematurely born males. Additionally, both prematurely born males and females will be more likely to develop secondary lung complications as they continue to grow.
I will analyze CT scans from children examined by the doctors of UF Shands Pediatric Pulmonary Care Center. I will be utilizing the software and imaging within our lab to complete vessel segmentation to determine the number of branches within the lungs and analyze the radius of the various branches to determine the rate at which the lungs of prematurely born children grow. I plan to examine the scans of older prematurely born patients as it will allow me to better analyze how gender can influence lung development over time. I will then be able to compare my data to other males and females who were born at the standard gestational period and who are of the same gestational age. Thus, by completing this research, I will determine one of the many long term affects of being born prior to the standard gestational period.
Immediate Research Objectives
For this research project, I have already begun but plan to study anywhere between 30 to 40 chest CT scans under the supervision and guidance of Dr. O'Dell. I plan to present my findings at the University Research Undergraduate Symposium. I chose this research project as it is something that I believe has not been studied in great enough depth and could possibly give a premature child a better chance at life.