Research

All Articles in the Category ‘Research’

Seattle Children’s to Host Conference on Social Media and Teen Health

SMAHRTAs new technologies have emerged, Seattle Children’s Research Institute has kept pace, studying various social media channels and considering how these impact adolescent health.

To share their exciting work with the community, the research institute’s Social Media & Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT) is hosting its first annual conference July 31 through Aug. 2. The conference, titled “Using Social Media To Improve Health, Catalyze Research and Empower Communities,” will address how social media can lead to both problematic behaviors – like overuse of the internet – or positive actions, like increased fitness.

“We know social media has some risk but we also know there are some benefits to using these tools,” said Dr. Megan Moreno, principal investigator of SMAHRT within the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s. “We want to figure out how to make online experiences more positive.”

The conference will include panel discussions as well as an “Appy Hour” in which attendees will have a chance to use Fitbit activity trackers, experience iPad health screenings and try an app used to help patients decide on birth control methods. It is intended for teachers, educators, families, health care providers, researchers, child health advocates, public health practitioners, and members of the legal, business, technology, and journalism communities. Read full post »

Bioethics Conference Asks Researchers ‘What Would You Do?’

The Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics was the first of its kind in the United States, created 10 years ago along with an annual conference. The tenth annual Pediatric Bioethics Conference will be held later this month, and will bring together renowned leaders in the field of pediatric bioethics to discuss various ethical issues faced by researchers daily.

“Our conferences expose attendees to new perspectives and new ways of thinking,” said Dr. Douglas Diekema, director of education at the Treuman Katz Center.

Some of the topics that will be discussed at this year’s conference include:

  • Parents of seriously ill children are often desperate for new therapies, even if in early phase trials. Is truly voluntary consent possible in such a situation?
  • Social media allows researchers to “eavesdrop” on adolescent behavior. Should there be constraints on this type of investigation?
  • Is it ever acceptable to conduct research in developing countries that would be considered inappropriate in the United States?
  • If hospitals set up biobanks for research, what is needed to ensure public trust?

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Seattle Children’s Researcher Finds Genetic Identifier for Autism

Dr. Raphael Bernier

Dr. Raphael Bernier

A researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Institute, in collaboration with researchers from 13 institutions worldwide, has found a genetic identifier for autism that includes physical features and a pattern of symptoms that may eventually allow clinicians to develop targeted treatments or ultimately potentially identify babies who are at risk for autism before they are born.

Dr. Raphael Bernier, clinical director of Seattle Children’s Autism Center and Associate Professor at the University of Washington, discovered that a mutation of the CHD8 gene, in addition to significantly increasing a child’s risk of developing a specific subtype of autism, also causes several unique physical traits.

We had the opportunity to chat with Bernier and ask him how this discovery will impact children and families.

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Babies Likely Consuming Unsafe Levels of Dangerous Chemicals

baby eating

new study reports infants eating a typical diet consume unsafe levels of phthalates, man-made chemicals used in plastics that can interfere with growth and brain development.

Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a Seattle Children’s Research Institute environmental medicine expert, co-authored a study that compiled data from 17 international studies measuring phthalate (pronounced thall-eight) exposure in different foods. Diet is believed to be the greatest source of phthalate exposure. Foods are likely contaminated with these chemicals through packaging and processing materials, Sathyanarayana said.

The study, published in Environmental Health, found the typical diet of infants over 6 months old who are eating solid foods contains an unsafe level of phthalates. In contrast, the typical diets consumed by women of a childbearing age and adolescents did not contain unsafe levels of these toxins. Read full post »

HPV Research Could Decrease Cancer Risk for Millions

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Seattle Children’s Research Institute adolescent medicine expert Dr. Rachel Katzenellenbogen.

Nearly all men and women in the United States are infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) during their lives, putting them at greater risk of developing life-threatening cervical, anal, vaginal, penile, throat and tongue cancers. But, what if it was possible to stop these cancers from developing?

The National Cancer Institute has awarded Seattle Children’s Research Institute adolescent medicine expert Dr. Rachel Katzenellenbogen more than $2 million to research that possibility. She is studying what happens in the body between the time of HPV infection and cancer development in search of opportunities to intervene and prevent malignant disease.

“There are generations of people who did not get the HPV vaccine or got vaccinated after they were already exposed to HPV,” Katzenellenbogen said. “Those people could still develop cancer. We need to understand their disease process if we are going to help them.” Read full post »

New Collaboration Could Accelerate Cures for Lupus, Other Childhood Diseases

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Kathia Vega Flores, 18, was diagnosed with lupus when she was 11 years old. She has had to take toxic medications to manage her disease.

Kathia Vega Flores will never forget the way her friends and family reacted when she came home from a month-long hospital stay at age 11: They did not recognize her.

Kathia had been diagnosed with lupus, a lifelong disease that causes inflammation throughout the body. The medications used to control her disease caused Kathia’s body to swell. She couldn’t walk without assistance. She was often dizzy and nauseous.  In total, Kathia was taking 20 pills each day.

“The medications changed me a lot,” she said. “It was very hard. I just wanted to get back to my normal routine of going to school and seeing my family without upsetting them.”

Lupus is most commonly diagnosed in teenage girls, but half of a million people in the United States are living with it. The disease can lead to rashes, fevers, enlarged lymph nodes, psychoses, seizures and inflammation of the heart, lungs or brain.

Roadblocks on the road to cures

Dr. Anne Stevens, a research expert at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, has been treating lupus patients at Seattle Children’s for 25 years. Despite the great advances experts like her have made studying the immune system, lupus is still treated with toxic medications like chemotherapy and steroids because of a lack of funding for pediatric research. Read full post »

Researchers Discover New Therapy for a Common Childhood Cancer that has Fewer Side Effects

Dr. Douglas Hawkins is the chair of the COG study

At the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, Children’s Oncology Group (COG) researchers presented promising findings from an international study that has identified a new therapy for treating rhabdomyosarcoma, a common childhood cancer. The therapy has fewer harsh side effects, meaning it lessens the chance of infections, need for blood transfusions and infertility later in life.

“Although we did not improve the cure rate, we are excited that we have identified a therapy that was as effective as standard treatment, but has fewer harmful side effects,” said Dr. Douglas Hawkins, chair of the COG study and associate division chief of Hematology/Oncology at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “Most children are cured of this cancer, and so we want to limit not only the side effects they experience during treatment, but also reduce the side effects that affect long-term health.”

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Changing Childhoods: Cystic fibrosis research makes a difference for Molly

Baby Molly Hamilton.

Baby Molly Hamilton.

Meet Molly

On Feb. 17, 2008, Erin and Bill Hamilton welcomed their daughter Molly into the world. She appeared to be a perfectly healthy, 9-pound baby girl, but a newborn screening test revealed Molly had cystic fibrosis.

“We were devastated,” Erin said. “We didn’t know anything about cystic fibrosis and had no idea how this disease would affect her life.”

Life-changing research

Dr. Bonnie Ramsey, director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and a national leader in cystic fibrosis research.

Dr. Bonnie Ramsey, a national leader in cystic fibrosis research.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition that affects about 30,000 people in the United States. It causes thick, sticky mucus to build in the lungs, digestive tract and other areas of the body. It’s also a disease that has become the life’s work of Dr. Bonnie Ramsey, director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

In 1938, when cystic fibrosis was first recognized as a disease, babies with this condition rarely lived past one year. Thanks to researchers like Ramsey, children with this disease can now live comfortably into adulthood.

“It is so rewarding to see how research impacts the lives of these children,” Ramsey said. “My goal is to keep conducting research studies until there are successful treatments for all patients with cystic fibrosis.” Read full post »

Study shows pregnant women still smoking, newborns at risk for heart defects

cigaretteAccording to a new study that will be highlighted this weekend at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting, women, particularly younger women, are still smoking while pregnant, putting their newborns at risk for congenital heart defects.

Patrick Sullivan, MD, lead author of the study and clinical fellow in pediatric cardiology at Seattle Children’s Hospital, said maternal smoking seemed to place newborns at a 50-70 percent greater risk for specific heart anomalies. The risk was highest in the heaviest smokers. Read full post »

Milton meets the team that saved his life

Milton Wright III meets the lab technicians who engineered his T-cells and helped save his life.

Milton Wright III meets the lab technicians who engineered his T-cells and helped save his life.

Some moments are so significant the weight of them seems to hang in the air. I experienced this first-hand when cancer survivor Milton Wright III met the people who helped save his young life.

You may remember Wright, the leukemia patient who achieved remission thanks to an immunotherapy protocol designed by Mike Jensen, MD, at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Wright is doing well and recently had a chance to meet the scientist who designed his therapy, the technicians who modified his cells and the family whose foundation helped fund his treatment. Read full post »