Research

All Articles in the Category ‘Research’

A Miracle in the Making

Greta Oberhofer’s leukemia is in remission thanks to T-cell immunotherapy developed at Seattle Children’s.

Greta Oberhofer survived a bone marrow transplant for leukemia when she was just 8 months old — but the side effects nearly killed her. Then, six months later, her family’s worst fears came to life.

“My husband put the doctor on speaker phone — he told me Greta relapsed and that her prognosis was bad,” remembers her mother, Maggie Oberhofer. “She had already suffered so much with the chemotherapy and transplant, and we didn’t want to put her through that again. We didn’t know what to do.”

The Oberhofers — who live in Portland — were considering hospice for Greta. Then they heard that Seattle Children’s Dr. Rebecca Gardner was testing a therapy that uses reprogrammed immune cells to attack certain kinds of leukemia.

“Dr. Gardner said not to give up because her therapy was putting kids like Greta in remission, and that the side effects were often a lot easier to tolerate,” Oberhofer says. “We suddenly had a way forward.”

A few months later, the Oberhofers watched Greta’s reprogrammed cells drip into her body. Two weeks after that, her cancer was in remission.

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Tumor Paint Brings Light to Toddler’s Brain Tumor

Hunter Coffman, 2, with his family.

Hunter Coffman, 2, with his family.

In December of last year, Laura Coffman began to notice that something wasn’t quite right with her 2-year-old son, Hunter. He was leaning to one side and seemed to lose his balance easily. When he became lethargic and started vomiting a few days later on Dec. 28, she knew it was time to see the pediatrician.

After all standard tests came back normal, they were sent to Seattle Children’s for further testing and to find an answer. Unfortunately, it was far worse than anything Coffman could have imagined.

“What I thought was probably just Hunter being a wobbly toddler with a virus turned out to be a brain tumor,” said Coffman. “I will never forget that day. It was the most traumatic six hours of our lives.” Read full post »

Researchers Identify Better, Cost-Effective Depression Treatment for Teens

Researchers have identified a cost-effective way to treat depression in teens with a collaborative care approach.

Depression is one of the most common mental health issues a teenager can face. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 2.8 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in 2014, or 11.4% of adolescents that age.

Depression can create a huge cost burden on patients and institutions, and for teenagers that includes issues like missed school and the costs of healthcare for families. A new study in JAMA Pediatrics, led by Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Group Health Cooperative, identifies a cost-effective treatment that yields promising results for depressed teens.

“We used a collaborative care approach to treat teen depression, which included having a depression care manager who worked with the patient, family and doctors to develop a plan and support the teen in implementing that plan,” said Dr. Laura Richardson, an adolescent medicine physician and researcher at Seattle Children’s and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington. “We were pleased to find that this collaborative approach was significantly more effective in treating depression than standard care with only a small increase in costs.” Read full post »

Researchers Identify Concussion Treatment for Persistent Cases in Children

Carmen Einmo, 16, suffered a concussion after falling off a horse. A new study shows that incorporating psychological care and coordinated care improves outcomes for adolescents with persistent concussion symptoms.

Concussions can create a host of symptoms—headache, dizziness, moodiness, upset stomach and other issues. In most cases, those symptoms eventually dissipate, but about 15% of young people who get concussions struggle with persistent symptoms despite seeing doctors and receiving medical care. The ongoing symptoms interfere with school, social life and physical activity.

Researchers at Seattle Children’s Research Institute published a study today in the journal Pediatrics showing a new intervention for adolescents with persistent post-concussive symptoms that improved health and wellness outcomes significantly. The approach combines cognitive behavioral therapy and coordinated care among providers, schools, patients and families.

“We were pleased to find that using an approach that adds a psychological care component to treating concussions and providing coordination of care in areas of the patient’s life significantly improved outcomes,” said Dr. Cari McCarty, a psychologist and researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute who led the study. “This new approach aims to improve the quality of life for patients who were otherwise left to deal with unrelenting concussion symptoms.” Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Research Institute Celebrates a Decade of Children’s Health Innovations

Seattle Children’s Research Institute is celebrating 10 years with a Science Block Party on Saturday Sept. 10 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

As one of the nation’s top five pediatric research centers and one of only 31 centers in the world dedicated to pediatric research, Seattle Children’s Research Institute has made tremendous strides since it opened its doors 10 years ago. From pioneering cystic fibrosis treatments to cutting-edge cancer therapies, our researchers have made their mark in helping to prevent, treat and eliminate childhood disease.

On Saturday, Sept. 10 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the public is invited to a free Science Block Party for kids and adults to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the institute in downtown Seattle. Kids, parents and community members will have the chance to meet researchers and play games that illuminate how medical advancements happen in our labs and clinics.

“The Seattle community has supported us every step of the way as we search for better treatments and new cures for pediatric diseases,” said Dr. Jim Hendricks, president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute. “In celebrating our 10th anniversary in downtown Seattle, we thank the doctors, researchers, families, patients and donors who have helped advance science to improve children’s lives.”

As the institute celebrates 10 years, On the Pulse takes a look at some of the most exciting pediatric innovations and discoveries. Read full post »

Preventing Tragedy by Empowering Teens to React to Troubling Social Media Posts From Peers

Researchers in Seattle and Portland believe web and mobile tools could be used by young people to respond effectively to concerning social media content they see from their peers.

What if a text message could prevent the next violent tragedy, or prevent a despondent teen from dying due to suicide? Two research teams hope that new mobile and web tools could do exactly that.

Distraught young people often turn to social media as an outlet and write posts about having thoughts of self-harm, violence or other concerning issues. The audience for these posts is often a troubled teen’s young peers who are left to grapple with the content and what to do about it.

Dr. Megan Moreno, a pediatrician in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital and researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, studies how young people use social media. A shared interest in adolescent health and social media sparked a collaboration between Moreno and Dr. Stephanie Craig Rushing, a researcher at the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board’s Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center, that aimed to empower young people to react to troubling social media content. Read full post »

Study Links Chemical in Plastics to Genital Abnormalities in Baby Boys

A new study shows that pregnant women’s exposure to a chemical commonly found in plastic is directly linked to abnormalities in newborn boys’ reproductive organs.

Doctors and researchers know that man-made chemicals commonly found in plastics, foods, personal care products and building materials can interfere with how hormones like estrogen and testosterone work in the body.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Research now shows that pregnant women’s exposure to a particular endocrine-disrupting chemical called diethylhexyl pthalate (DEHP) is directly linked to abnormalities in newborn boys’ reproductive organs.

Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a pediatric environmental health researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute who led the study, sat down with On the Pulse to answer some questions about the findings. Read full post »

Researchers Find Herpes Strain in the Nervous System

In this lab stain, the small orange-spotted cell on the far left shows a nerve cell infected with herpes virus in an animal model.

There are a couple strains of herpes so common that researchers estimate 90% of the human population have them. These strains, human herpes 6 and human herpes 7, usually do not cause severe symptoms when people acquire them. But researchers know that under certain circumstances, dormant herpes viruses in the body can unexpectedly come roaring back and cause complications not typically associated with herpes virus.

Dr. Serge Barcy studies herpes viruses at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. In a paper published in the journal Virology he describes finding the herpes 7 virus hiding in a surprising place: the nervous system of an animal model.

“It’s common to find herpes virus in salivary glands of humans and animals,” Barcy said. “But we found herpes 7 in the nervous system of animal models, which was a surprise because that strain of herpes has not been detected in the nervous system before. We want to understand what it does in the nervous system, if the virus is also in the human nervous system and if it could be associated with nerve diseases.” Read full post »

Electrical synapses in the brain offer new avenue for epilepsy research and possible treatment

Dr. Philippe Coulon thinks electrical signals directly exchanged between brain cells may hold promise as a potential target for absence epilepsy treatments.

A child with absence epilepsy may be in the middle of doing something—she could be dancing, studying, talking—when all of a sudden she stares off into space for a few moments. Then, as quickly as she drifted off, the child snaps back into whatever she was doing, unaware that the episode occurred.

That brief moment of disconnect from reality is called an absence seizure, and according to the Epilepsy Society, childhood absence epilepsy accounts for 2-8% of all epilepsy diagnoses. Most cases of childhood absence epilepsy end after puberty, but about 30% of cases continue into adulthood or lead to other forms of epilepsy, says Dr. Philippe Coulon, a neuroscientist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

“Some kids can have hundreds of these brief seizures a day,” said Coulon. “I can only imagine how hard it is for them to function and have a normal childhood.”

In a study published in the Journal of Physiology, Coulon and his colleagues suggest that electrical signals directly exchanged between brain cells may hold promise as a potential target for absence epilepsy treatments. Read full post »

Researcher Studies Common Bacteria to Give Babies a Fighting Chance


Group B streptococcus (GBS) is the most common life-threatening bacterial infection in newborns worldwide. GBS typically resides in the lower genital tract but does not cause infections in healthy women. But if the infection is transmitted to an infant during pregnancy, it can lead to preterm birth or stillbirth. If the infection is transmitted to a newborn, it can cause pneumonia, sepsis or meningitis, all of which can occur within the first week of life or within 90 days of birth. The goal of my research is to prevent maternal to infant transmission of GBS.

But not all babies become infected. In the U.S. and other developed countries, pregnant women are screened for GBS around the 37th week of gestation. If found positive, a pregnant woman is given antibiotics during labor to prevent the newborn from being infected, and that has reduced transmission of GBS from mothers to infants during birth. However, infections that occur earlier than 37 weeks or after 1 week of birth are not prevented by these measures. Read full post »