Research

All Articles in the Category ‘Research’

Integrating Mental Health Treatment into Primary Care May Reduce Teen Depression

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Dr. Laura Richardson, adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and principal investigator in the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

A new study from Seattle Children’s Research Institute suggests integrating mental health treatment into primary care may reduce depression symptoms in teens.

Challenges accessing treatment

While 14% of teens experience serious depression, few receive evidence-based treatments for mental illness. This puts them at greater risk of suicide, substance abuse, early pregnancy, low educational attainment, recurrent depression and poor long-term health.

Accessing mental health treatment can be challenging for patients and their families. In the typical clinic, teens diagnosed with depression by a primary care doctor are referred to mental health specialists for treatment, requiring their families to identify an available specialist, set up an appointment and travel to a new care setting. Dr. Laura Richardson, an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and principal investigator in the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, said she often sees patients who have not been able to connect with a mental health provider return to her with worse depression symptoms. Read full post »

Brain Discovery Could Lead to Improved Treatments for Depression

iStock_000036067988SmallFinding mental health treatments without unwanted side effects can be challenging, but scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute (SCRI) have discovered an area of the brain that could one day be targeted to treat depression more effectively.

Dr. Eric Turner, a principal investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Integrative Brain Research, together with lead author Dr. Yun-Wei (Toni) Hsu, also from Seattle Children’s Research Institute, learned that a tiny region of the brain – the dorsal medial habenula –controls the motivation to exercise and participate in other rewarding activities in mice, and potentially in humans. Exercise is one of the most effective non-pharmacological therapies for depression, so determining which part of the brain may be responsible for exercise motivation could help researchers develop more targeted treatments.

“Changes in physical activity and the inability to enjoy rewarding or pleasurable experiences are two hallmarks of major depression,” Turner said. “But the brain pathways responsible for exercise motivation have not been well understood. Now, we can seek ways to manipulate activity within this specific area of the brain without impacting the rest of the brain’s activity.” Read full post »

Infectious Disease Epidemics May Not Influence Vaccination Rates

Doctor giving a child an intramuscular injection in arm, shallow DOFExperts have long believed that when the risk of a disease is high, people are more likely to accept a vaccine to prevent that disease. But recent research suggests that might not be uniformly true. Dr. Elizabeth Wolf, an investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, led a study that determined Washington’s recent pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic did not influence the number of infants who were vaccinated against the disease.

Pertussis is an extremely contagious bacterial disease that can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death. In 2012, the United States experienced the largest pertussis epidemic since the 1950s. There were 20 deaths reported nationally, the majority of which were infants. Washington reported one of the highest incidence rates of pertussis. The state also has one of the highest nonmedical vaccination exemption rates from required kindergarten vaccinations.

“Vaccination rates are below public health goals, both locally and nationally,” Wolf said. “We need to better understand what factors might impact vaccine acceptance.”  Read full post »

Camp Inside-Out Aims to Improve the Odds for Teens in Foster Care

Dr. Kym Ahrens (left) with Camp Inside-Out colleagues (left to right), Heather Spielvogle, Mavis Bonnar and Alexis Coatney.

Dr. Kym Ahrens (left) with Camp Inside-Out colleagues (left to right), Heather Spielvogle, Mavis Bonnar and Alexis Coatney.

This month, Dr. Kym Ahrens is going to camp with 24 teenagers.

Some people would call that an adventure; others, a challenge.

Ahrens calls it research.

Ahrens, an adolescent medicine specialist and researcher within Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, is studying whether an intensive, five-day “dose” of a specially designed camp can give teens in foster care the skills they need to steer clear of risky sexual behaviors.

It’s a big deal because teens in foster care are at much higher risk than their peers for unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Read full post »

Transplant Saves First ‘Bubble Boy’ in Wash. State Detected with Newborn Screening

This is a special guest post from JoNel Aleccia, staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. See the original article and photos here.

Rachel Dixon holds her son Ezra, who was born with severe combined immunodeficiency. SCID affects about 1 in every 50,000 babies born in the U.S. Nearly two months after having a life-saving bone marrow transplant from his brother, Judah, he's doing well. Photo courtesy of  Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Rachel Dixon holds her son Ezra, who was born with SCID. Nearly two months after having a life-saving bone marrow transplant from his brother, he’s doing well. Photo courtesy of Bo Jungmayer / Fred Hutch News Service

Ezra Dixon was born April 7, four months after the state of Washington first starting screening newborns for the disorder commonly known as “bubble boy disease,” which leaves its patients at the mercy of common germs.

Some 22,610 babies were tested before him and more than 28,000 have been tested since, all negative, health records show. But Ezra is different.

The bald, blue-eyed boy is the only child in the state so far diagnosed with severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, detected through the program.

When staff at the Washington State Department of Health Newborn Screening Lab analyzed the drop of blood pricked from his heel shortly after birth, they found none of the T-cells that protect the body from infection, a certain sign of the rare disorder.

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Researchers Combine Therapies to Find a Better Way to Treat Brain Injury in Infants

Complications that can arise around the time of birth may reduce oxygen and blood flow to a baby’s brain, causing hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a leading cause of death or neurological impairment among infants. In the past eight years, cooling therapy (hypothermia) has become the standard form of care for HIE, as it’s been found to be effective in reducing brain injury, but doctors say it’s not enough – about half of affected infants still have a poor outcome.

For this reason, researchers have launched a nationwide study, called the Neonatal Erythropoietin and Therapeutic Hypothermia Outcomes in Newborn Brain Injury (NEAT-O), to see if using the hormone erythropoietin (Epo) in conjunction with cooling therapy may further reduce the risk of neurologic deficits in full-term infants (at least 36 weeks gestation) with HIE.

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Research in Sub-Saharan Africa Aims to Improve Lives of HIV-Positive Kids

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Dr. Mogomotsi Matshaba, a clinician and researcher at the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Center of Excellence in Gaborone, Botswana.

Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s mission to prevent, treat and eliminate childhood disease extends far beyond the Pacific Northwest or even the United States. Researchers like Dr. Jason Mendoza, of the institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development, are advocating for vulnerable patients all over the world. Mendoza recently led a global health research study in Botswana, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, to find out if inadequate access to food, also called food insecurity,  might be associated with worse health outcomes of HIV-positive children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Studying patients with the greatest need

HIV is a major public health problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2012, there were 3.3 million children worldwide, under the age of 15, living with HIV. Of those, 2.9 million were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Botswana has one of the highest HIV rates of countries in this region, with 23% of adults (ages 15 to 49) infected. Additionally, from 2010 to 2012, 27.9% of people in Botswana did not have physical or economic access to enough nutritious food to maintain a healthy, productive lifestyle. Read full post »

Study Helps Teens Cope with Stress of Cancer, Diabetes

blogpic1The teen years can be difficult– you’re fighting for your independence but still trying to develop an identity. And your 20s come with their own obstacles, like going to college, starting a career and living on your own. Can you imagine facing those developmental milestones while injecting yourself with insulin or enduring chemotherapy?

Dr. Abby Rosenberg, medical leader for Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer program and researcher in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research, and Dr. Joyce Yi-Frazier, research health psychologist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, have seen teens with cancer and type 1 diabetes struggle physically and psychosocially. Adolescents and young adults with cancer are less likely to achieve social milestones like college, marriage, and employment and more likely to suffer from anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Likewise, teens with type 1 diabetes struggle to control their blood sugar levels and are more likely to be depressed.

“The teen and young adult years are a critical time of transition for anyone,” Rosenberg said. “When you add a serious illness to the mix, you are asking patients to do extraordinarily hard things. We want to help them integrate the experience into their identity so they are not only surviving, but thriving.”

An intervention model

To help patients, Rosenberg and Yi-Frazier worked together on the Promoting Resilience in Stress Management (PRISM) study. PRISM is an intervention model designed to teach patients resilience – the ability to maintain psychological and physical well-being in the face of stress – to buffer the impact of serious illness. Read full post »

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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