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3D-Printed Heart Transforms Family’s Understanding of Complex Heart Disease

Auren Satake, 17 months, was born with a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Rachael Satake holds a 3D-printed replica of her son’s heart condition in her hands during a recent appointment at Seattle Children’s Heart Center. For the first time since learning about the defect midway through pregnancy, she clearly sees how the surgeries he has undergone are helping his heart work despite having only one ventricle.

Her son, Auren, has a serious congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), which means he was born missing the left ventricle of his heart. His right ventricle works double time to supply blood to both his lungs and the rest of his body. Read full post »

Montana Twins’ Hearts Beat in Harmony Following Unexpected Surgery Days After Birth

From left right: Twin sisters Freya and Sabina Sturges reunited after Sabina needed an unexpected heart surgery just days after birth.

Leigh Sturges recalls the day she and her husband, Zach Sturges, learned they were having twins. Seven weeks into their first pregnancy, the Bozeman, Montana, family entered a state of happy shock.

“We couldn’t believe it when heard two heart beats on the ultrasound,” she said. “We were realistic about the challenges ahead, deciding it could only make us stronger.”

At the time, they had no idea how soon one of those beating hearts would test their strength. It was only days after delivery when doctors detected a congenital heart condition in one twin, leading the Sturgeses to Seattle Children’s Heart Center for an unexpected heart surgery.   Read full post »

Study Finds Neuron Inhibition May be Key in New Treatments for Addiction

New research suggests inhibiting one group of neurons’ activity may prove to be a highly effective treatment for reducing relapse in recovering addicts.

A new study published by researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute reveals how neurons in the brain fuel drug-seeking behavior following compulsive drug use. Their findings, published online in Addiction Biology, suggest inhibiting one group of neurons’ activity may prove to be a highly effective treatment for reducing relapse in recovering addicts.

While the science of addiction is beginning to show how pathological drug use causes the brain’s “go” pathway to become overactive, little is known about what renders some individuals vulnerable to developing addiction and what protects others against it. There are also few effective treatments available to people who develop a drug addiction, or the approximately 90% of individuals who relapse following addiction treatment.

Dr. Susan Ferguson, a principal investigator in the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s and senior author on the study, describes how her team used an experimental approach called chemogenetic inhibition to probe the relationship between brain activity and behavior in drug addiction. Read full post »

A Real-World Lab Gives Students Hands-on STEM Experience

From left to right: Puget Sound Skills Center BioMedical Research and Global Health program students Maryan Farah, Samantha Johnson and Lul Abdinoor. Offered in collaboration with Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the course is the first-of-its kind at a Washington state Career and Technical Education school.

On the day On the Pulse visited the BioMedical Research and Global Health program at Highline Public Schools’ Puget Sound Skills Center (PSSC), the students were preparing to extract DNA from plant specimens in order to learn about a process used by scientists for studying DNA.

Instructor, Dr. Noelle Machnicki, reviewed the protocol, including a detailed description of lysis – a process the students would be using to break open the cells – and then sent them to their benches to get started.

Machnicki, a biologist with a doctorate degree, skilled educator and a member of the Science Education Department at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, was immediately drawn to the opportunity to teach the first-of-its-kind yearlong program offered in a partnership between Seattle Children’s and the PSSC.

“The program intends to create a strong foundation in biological sciences for high school juniors and seniors through extensive hands-on laboratory experience and other educational and leadership opportunities,” said Machnicki. “It provides research training beyond what a student would get in a typical high school science class.” Read full post »

Top Seattle Children’s Blogs of 2017

As the countdown to 2018 begins, we can’t help but look back on all of the amazing stories from Seattle Children’s that inspired readers in 2017. With over 100 stories of hope, care and cures posted on our blog this year, here are the top seven most-read posts of 2017.

1. Novel Diet Therapy Helps Children With Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Reach Remission

Adelynne, with her mom here, was diagnosed with Crohn’s when she was 8 years old. With the help of a special diet, Adelynne has been in clinical remission for more than two years.

A first-of-its-kind-study led by Dr. David Suskind, a gastroenterologist at Seattle Children’s, published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, found a special diet called the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) could bring pediatric patients with active Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis into clinical remission.

The findings support the use of SCD – a nutritionally balanced diet that removes grains, dairy, processed foods and sugars, except for honey – as a sole intervention to treat children with inflammatory bowel disease. Read full post »

Immunotherapy, Gene Editing Advances Extend to Type 1 Diabetes

Dr. Jane Buckner of the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason and Dr. David Rawlings at Seattle Children’s Research Institute are leading research to develop an immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes.

Advances in engineering T cells to treat cancer are paving the way for new immunotherapies targeted at autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes. Now, researchers are also investigating therapies that reprogram T cells to “turn down” an immune response, which may hold promise for curing type 1 diabetes, as well as a number of diseases where overactive T cells attack a person’s healthy cells and organs.

“Instead of stimulating the immune system to seek and destroy cancer cells, treating autoimmune conditions will require programming a patient’s own T cells to tell rogue immune cells to calm down,” said Dr. David Rawlings, director of the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and chief of the Division of Immunology at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Harnessing gene-editing techniques pioneered by Seattle Children’s, Rawlings and colleagues have already made headway in equipping T cells with the instructions needed to potentially reverse type 1 diabetes. In a new $2 million research project funded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, researchers will leverage these recent successes using this new form of T-cell immunotherapy into first-in-human clinical trials. Read full post »

In Scientific First, Researchers Engineer B Cells to Treat Disease

Primary human B cells could offer the next promising cell therapy. Credit: Human B Lymphocyte by NIAID (CC by 2.0)

Scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute have unlocked the ability to engineer B cells, uncovering a potential new cell therapy that could someday prevent and cure disease.

In a paper published in Molecular Therapy, the research team describes how they genetically reprogrammed primary human B cells to act as cell factories capable of delivering sustained, high doses of therapeutic proteins. The gene editing techniques used reprogrammed B plasma cells to secrete a protein that could treat patients with hemophilia B.

Dr. Richard James, a principal investigator in the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and an author on the paper, discusses the significance of their discovery.   Read full post »

With a Genetic Answer, Parents Find Comfort in Son’s Rare Epilepsy

Genetic testing helped diagnose Nolan Wood, 3, with KCNQ3 epilepsy.

Even though Nolan Wood hadn’t experienced a seizure in more than two years, his parents still had questions about their son’s future.

“We wondered if there were others out there that have what Nolan has,” said Emily Wood, Nolan’s mom. “If so, what does their life look like?”

The Woods’ search for answers began when Nolan, 3, was diagnosed with infantile spasms and regression of his motor skills when he was 6 months old. Before receiving seizure medications, Nolan had hundreds of daily subtle, reflex-like seizures. Due to the regression of his motor skills, he had stopped rolling over, smiling and crying. A condition known as cortical visual impairment had also rendered him legally blind. Read full post »

Surgery Frees Lillee from Seizures Medication Couldn’t Stop

Lillee Haynes, 4, surrounded by her three older brothers.

When 4-year-old Lillee Haynes runs through the doors of Seattle Children’s South Clinic for her speech therapy appointment and heads straight for a table covered in crayons, it’s hard to imagine that nearly two years ago she faced hundreds of epileptic seizures each day.

“Her seizures happened so often that I installed a camera above her bed to record any she had at night,” said Aimee Haynes, Lillee’s mom. “One night the camera recorded 200 movements. I was shocked to see how many seizures disrupted her sleep.”

Lillee’s brain didn’t rest until she underwent not one, but two neurosurgeries at Seattle Children’s to remove the diseased area of her left brain, allowing her healthy brain to grow and develop.

“You could say Lillee is most definitely right-brain dominant,” laughed Haynes. “That might explain why she has such a spicy personality.” Read full post »

Mast Cells May Hold Key to Preventing Group B Strep Infection

Group B streptococcus. Credit: NIAID. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Mast cells. Few know that mast cells are the first responders of the immune system. Even fewer study their role in group B streptococcus, a widespread bacterial infection that can cause preterm birth, stillbirth or dangerous sepsis in infants.

Many women who have given birth will likely remember the group B strep screening in their third trimester.

“Group B strep is normally found in up to 30% of women, but because it doesn’t cause illness, we don’t think about it until there is a risk in pregnancy,” said Dr. Lakshmi Rajagopal, a principal investigator in the Center for Global Infectious Disease Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “In babies, the infection can lead to serious and deadly health consequences such as pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis.”

To ensure the infection is not transmitted to the baby, women testing positive for group B strep receive antibiotics during labor. However, no therapeutic strategies exist to prevent the incidence of systemic group B strep infection that can occur in babies before labor or after birth.

Rajagopal and Dr. Adrian Piliponsky, a principal investigator in the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies at Seattle Children’s, believe part of the answer to preventing group B strep may lie in mast cells. In a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the researchers reveal new insight into how mast cells defend against bacterial infections. Read full post »