Research

All Articles in the Category ‘Research’

Bullying Report Describes Effects On Child Development, Need For Cyberbullying Monitoring

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A new report on bullying describes its effects on childhood development and calls for better monitoring and understanding of cyberbullying.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine describes the effects of bullying on childhood development and calls for a better understanding of cyberbullying. Dr. Frederick Rivara, Seattle Children’s Guild Endowed Chair in Pediatrics, chaired the report committee, and Dr. Megan Moreno, principal investigator of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, was a committee member. On the Pulse sat down with them to discuss the new findings and what families can do to protect their children from bullying.

What new information or findings does this report offer about bullying? What are the key takeaways?

Moreno: While bullying has been around for decades, there are many misconceptions about bullying. This report describes and synthesizes the current scientific evidence so that we can have a shared understanding of the current state of the science on bullying.

The first takeaway is that bullying experiences can lead to biological changes for the target of bullying, including stress response and brain activity alterations. Read full post »

Boy Donates Part of His Brain to Science, Researchers Discover Major Cause of Epilepsy

Alden Bernate, 12, needed neurosurgery to stop his relentless seizures. Brain tissue donated from that surgery led to a discovery of a gene linked to intractable epilepsy.

Alden Bernate, 12, is only a middle school student, but he’s already played a big part in groundbreaking epilepsy research. He donated brain tissue for scientific research after he had surgery to disconnect part of his brain that was causing severe seizures.

The human genetics team at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, led by Dr. Ghayda Mirzaa and Dr. William Dobyns, used Alden’s brain tissue along with the tissue from other patients to discover a new gene mutation that can cause intractable epilepsy. The finding opens the door to potential treatments that target that gene. The team’s findings are published in the current issue of JAMA Neurology. Read full post »

New Gene Sequencing Technology Opens Door to Faster Diagnoses

Kaylyn Milligan and her son, Owen. Milligan lost two babies due to a genetic mutation she didn’t know she had. After a careful review of her genome, Dr. James Bennett was able to identify the mutation and Milligan was able to make educated family planning decisions.

There are times when a child comes to the hospital with symptoms and even after a thorough exam and many tests, doctors can have a difficult time making a diagnosis. Now, doctors and researchers at Seattle Children’s have a new tool that will be key in finding answers for patients and their families: A next generation gene sequencer that can be used to sequence DNA quickly and make diagnoses in complex cases.

The machine, an Illumina NextSeq, can sequence all of the genes in the human genome in just 24 hours. The enormous amount of data generated by this machine will be processed using the PierianDx analytical pipeline.

“This new technology will dramatically decrease the cost of gene sequencing for our patients and will help us make quicker diagnoses, especially in complicated cases,” said Dr. James Bennett, a geneticist and researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “Families can sometimes go years without a diagnosis. Now, we’ll be able to provide more answers and identify potential therapies based on what we find in the genome.” Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Joins Largest Autism Research Study in U.S.

Dr. Raphael Bernier is helping launch a web-based registry with DNA analysis to accelerate autism research and speed discovery of treatments.

Dr. Raphael Bernier is helping launch a web-based registry with DNA analysis to accelerate autism research and speed discovery of treatments.

Researchers know that certain genes are linked to autism spectrum disorders — scientists have identified about 50 genes, and they estimate an additional 300 or more are also involved.

Pinpointing these genes is difficult, but it could be the key to understanding the cause of a disorder that affects 1 in every 68 children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One child’s diagnosis of autism and the gene that contributed to it will likely be completely different than another child’s diagnosis and genetic influences. Now, a nationwide study will create the largest bank of autism genes in the country that researchers can contribute to and use in research.

Seattle Children’s Autism Center is helping launch the web-based registry with DNA analysis to accelerate autism research and speed discovery of treatments. The SPARK study, sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, encompasses 21 leading national research institutions doing autism research.

“When we work to identify genes that cause autism, we need a huge number of individuals diagnosed with autism because each genetic event that leads to autism is rare,” said Dr. Raphael Bernier, a researcher and clinical director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center. “This large registry allows us to identify genetic trends. Once we know which genes to focus on, we can look at more individualized treatments for the future.” Read full post »

Doctor Partners On SIDS Newborn Hearing Study To Investigate Link To Inner Ear Damage

Jon Stephenson died of SIDS when he was 3 months old. His parents, Melissa French-Stephenson and David Stephenson, founded Jon’s Run, which donated $20,000 to support SIDS research by Seattle Children’s anesthesiologist Dr. Daniel Rubens.

Melissa French-Stephenson and David Stephenson know the devastation of losing a baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In 2002, they lost their 3-month-old, Jon, to SIDS while he was at daycare. He was their first baby.

“We were late to daycare because he was in such a good mood that morning and we spent some time playing,” French-Stephenson said. “We have a video from earlier that week where he is laughing, smiling and kicking.”

The Stephensons, who live in San Antonio, Texas, now have two healthy boys, but they wanted to honor Jon’s legacy. They founded Jon’s Run, an organization that hosts a yearly 5K run that supports families who have lost a baby or young child and raises money for SIDS research.

“When you lose a baby to SIDS, you feel like they never had a chance to get started in life,” French- Stephenson said. “We were devastated when we lost Jon and felt it was important to bring other parents together who had lost a child to SIDS, or from any cause, to support each other in their grief.”

The Stephensons are committed to advancing SIDS research and Jon’s Run recently donated $20,000 to support a study by Dr. Daniel Rubens, an anesthesiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and principal investigator at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Rubens will investigate a possible association between SIDS and hearing abnormalities in newborns.

“We’re excited to support Dr. Rubens’ work and hope answers come from this research,” French-Stephenson said. Read full post »

A Steady Diet of Data to Keep Refugee Kids Healthy

Dr. Beth Dawson-Hahn (left) and Dr. Anisa Ibrahim (right) study refugee children and nutrition.

Dr. Anisa Ibrahim was 6 in 1993 when her family came to Seattle from Somalia, driven from their country by civil war. In the beginning, everything about their new country was exciting and confusing — especially the supermarket.

“We were used to going to the market every day to buy fresh food,” recalls Ibrahim, now a third-year resident in pediatrics at Seattle Children’s. “It was hard to transition to buying bags and boxes of food in bulk.”

Foods the family relied on back home — like goat and guava — were not readily available. And snacks Ibrahim’s classmates pulled out of their lunchboxes — like cheese and Chex mix — were completely unfamiliar.

Unlike some refugees, Ibrahim and her siblings were healthy and well-nourished when they arrived. And thanks to her mom’s skill at cooking and adaptation, says Ibrahim, they stayed that way as they learned their way around the new food landscape.

As a doctor, Ibrahim wants to ensure other families can do the same. That’s why she carved out time during residency to work with Dr. Beth Dawson-Hahn, a pediatrician and research fellow in the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, who is studying refugee children and nutrition. Read full post »

Sleepy Time: Researcher and New Mom Explains Why Good Sleep Habits Are Important for Child Development

Dr. Michelle Garrison is a new mom and public health researcher the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute where she studies sleep.

I’m a new mom of a 4-month-old boy, and it’s giving me a new perspective on my work. Some new parents might be surprised to know that we are both getting pretty good sleep these days. I have researched child sleep, health and development for years, and now with my baby I am putting what I’ve learned into practice, especially when it comes to helping my son develop healthy sleep skills.

I study sleep issues in infants all the way to adolescents. As my son grows, I will help him as a preschooler through night terrors, change bedtime routines to meet the needs of an elementary school boy, and deal with the growing independence of the teenage years and the bedtime struggles that smartphones and tablets can bring. Read full post »

Researchers Work Toward New Type 1 Diabetes Therapies For Patients Like Juliana

Juliana Graceffo, 11, has type 1 diabetes. She must test her blood sugar throughout the day and take carefully calculated doses of insulin.

Children with type 1 diabetes and their families have to do several calculations throughout the day to stay healthy. Did my daughter check her blood sugar before breakfast? Does she need an extra snack because she has gym class? Is there someone at school to help my child check her blood sugar?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that injures the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and leads to a lifelong requirement of daily insulin injections. It is a considerable burden of care on patients and parents, who effectively never get a rest from the demands of staying healthy and safe.

According to the American Diabetes Association, about 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes. A new $1 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will get doctors and scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute one step closer to better treatment for type 1 diabetes by studying the use of immunotherapy to treat the condition. The work is in collaboration with researchers at Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI)Read full post »

Study Shows College Students More Likely to Post About Alcohol on Facebook

A study by Dr. Megan Moreno found that 76% of the college students displayed alcohol references on Facebook, compared to just 34% who posted about alcohol on Twitter.

It’s spring break season, and that means many college students across the country will shift their focus from the classroom to having fun. Sometimes those spring break plans can include attending parties where alcohol is present, which can lead to concerning and excessive alcohol consumption. In fact, alcohol is the most commonly used substance by college students, and rates of problematic drinking are higher among college students than compared to their non-college peers.

A new study by Dr. Megan Moreno from Seattle Children’s Research Institute in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that college students are more than twice as likely to post about alcohol on Facebook than on Twitter.

The study provides researchers, school administrators and parents with valuable information on how to study and monitor social media for concerning alcohol consumption.

“This work illuminates new approaches for social media researchers and can help us understand where young people post different types of social media content,” said Moreno. Read full post »

New Research Links Zika Virus to Brain Defects

This image compares the brain of a baby that has developed normally (top), the brain of a baby that has developed primary microcephaly (middle), and the brain of a baby from Brazil whose mother contracted Zika virus during her pregnancy (bottom). The bottom image indicates several abnormalities, including a severe reduction in brain size, excess fluid around the brain (external hydrocephalus) and calcifications in the brain tissue that indicate abnormal brain development. IMAGE CREDIT: Dr. Lavinia Schuler-Faccini, Genetics Department, Federal University in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

This image compares the brain of a baby that has developed normally (top), the brain of a baby that has developed primary microcephaly (middle), and the brain of a baby from Brazil whose mother contracted Zika virus during her pregnancy (bottom). The bottom image indicates several abnormalities, including a severe reduction in brain size, excess fluid around the brain (external hydrocephalus) and calcifications in the brain tissue that indicate abnormal brain development. IMAGE CREDIT: Dr. Lavinia Schuler-Faccini, Genetics Department, Federal University in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

New research out today in the journal Cell Stem Cell indicates a likely link between the Zika virus and abnormal brain development. Scientists are studying if the spread of Zika by mosquitoes in Latin America is linked to the increased rates of microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads. The study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Florida State University and Emory University.

Dr. William Dobyns, a pediatric neurogeneticist at the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute who treats and studies microcephaly, sat down with On the Pulse to discuss the new research published today.

Q: Does this new study published today indicate a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly in newborns?

Dobyns: The scientists who did this work confirmed that when developing brain cells are exposed to the Zika virus, it interferes with normal brain development.

The scientists studied what would happen if neural stem cells, which are the basic building blocks of a developing brain, were exposed to the Zika virus. These neural stem cells give rise to neurons and provide the scaffolding that allows the rest of the brain to develop properly. When neural stem cells do not develop normally, it interferes with brain development.

The paper showed that the 90% of neural stem cells exposed to Zika were infected and began to make copies of the virus. Many of the cells died or were unable to divide and create normal brain cells.

Q: What does this research mean for the scientific community studying the Zika virus?

Dobyns: This research helps scientists understand how the Zika virus could be leading to the birth defects we are seeing. It gives us a path to research drugs and vaccines to prevent Zika infection from causing brain defects. Read full post »