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Portrait of Childhood Asthma

Cristina Davis received a grant from The Hartwell Foundation to help improve the treatment of childhood asthma.

Helping children breathe easier — that is the mission of Cristina Davis, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Davis is designing a new breathing sensor that she hopes will revolutionize the monitoring and treatment options for children who suffer from a malady all too common to the Central Valley: asthma.

“We are working to develop a safe and effective, non-invasive diagnostic health monitoring sensor for children with asthma,” said Davis, “to improve their daily quality of life.”

For her research, The Hartwell Foundation recently honored Davis with an Individual Biomedical Research Award, making her the third UC Davis researcher in the past three years to earn such an award. The foundation also named UC Davis a place on the foundation’s list of the top 10 centers of biomedical research in the nation for 2011.

With the $300,000, three-year grant, Davis is building a hand-held breathing sensor that is no more intimidating than the inhalers becoming more ubiquitous among young asthma patients — and youngsters will use it in a similar fashion. Davis envisions these monitoring systems one day being part of everyday, handheld items such as a cell phone.

“Children will be able to self-monitor their own asthma during the course of a school day, and accumulate data that, in turn, will help their doctors fine-tune their inhaler regimens,” Davis said. “This will help determine whether their current drugs are doing an efficient job on a day-to-day basis and help improve the quality of their treatment.”