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Dr. Mingchao Cai School of Computer, Mathematical & Natural Sciences

Army Research Office Awards Morgan State University $420,000 Grant to Conduct Simulated Studies of Respiratory Diseases

by Morgan State U
February 13, 2023

Research Will Probe Lung Functioning and Illnesses Using Mathematical Equations, Computer Coding to Determine Better Pulmonary Fibrosis Treatments


BALTIMORE— Morgan State University was awarded a $420,000 grant by the Army Research Office (ARO) to conduct pioneering, interdisciplinary research integrating mathematics with computational science, mechanical engineering, and medical research in the study of respiratory conditions and other lung diseases. Using high-performance computing, including mathematical equations, and lung geometry, researchers in the School of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences will pursue simulations of respiratory mechanics that can replicate the condition of lungs, and provide knowledge about respiratory patterns and rates that lead to pulmonary fibrosis, as well as asthmatic, chronic breathing conditions. The three-year research project is part of an expansive study with researchers from the University of Iowa, whose focus will be centered on the organic and soft tissue analysis of the lung.

“Diseases of the respiratory system are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality around the world, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. populations frequently developed pulmonary fibrosis,” said Mingchao Cai, Ph.D., associate professor of Mathematics at Morgan State University and the project’s principal investigator. “The goal of this project is to integrate mathematical modeling, using real-life scenarios that simulate lung functioning, and predict impending abnormalities that may occur.”

Lung PhotoDue to the varying degrees of lung capacities and functioning from person to person, researchers from Morgan will study data from pulmonary patients and devise predictive mathematical models outlining a myriad of lung conditions. According to Dr. Chai, this is done by using equations, lung geometry, and computer coding to simulate the existing condition and the behavior of what’s influencing breath rate and different patterns of breathing. Through the simulations developed, researchers will be able to better predict pulmonary fibrosis and better understand the responsiveness of lung tissue in commutative conditions—particularly those instances of compromise or distress. The key learnings arrived from the research will have immediate, real-world applications as they will assist doctors to identify whether a patient needs a mechanical ventilator or specific respiratory care.

Dr. Hangchao Cai“This research will enable us to learn how the lung is functioning so that we can understand how to respond to and treat lung diseases before it’s too late,” added Dr. Cai.

According to the World Health Organization, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide, causing 3.23 million deaths in 2019. In the U.S., COPD is a leading cause of disability and death. More than 12.5 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but millions more may have the disease and not know it. Further studies also indicate that black patients are less likely to receive diagnostic medical imaging than any other racial and ethnic groups and have reduced access to treatment options. As a result, the delayed recognition of improper lung functioning can exacerbate existing problems leading to worsened conditions.

The ARO is among several agencies that are leading efforts to elevate the knowledge base within the scientific community and among practitioners by actively supporting research of this caliber. The Office, which consists of more than 100 scientists, engineers, and support staff, oversees the competitive selection and funding of research proposals from educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and private industry to foster scientific discovery and technological innovation, that will enable crucial future Army technologies and capabilities through high-risk, high-pay-off research opportunities. Morgan is one of 250 universities across the country and world that receive funding from ARO for research.

About Morgan

Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified high research (R2) institution offering more than 140 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, and the only university to have its entire campus designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit

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Media Contacts:

Cheryl Stewart or Dell Jackson, for University PR