Zeroing in on COVID-19

A curb side initial screening for COVID-19 symptoms allows nurses to determine if a patient needs isolation before entering the Emergency Department. (Slide 1/6)

If a patient is showing potential symptoms of COVID-19 and needs to be cared for in the hospital, then they are admitted to Seattle Children’s Special Isolation Unit (SIU). This photo was taken during a recent simulation training in the SIU. (Slide 2/6)

Dr. Whitney Harrington, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, plans to launch a study that will provide valuable epidemiological data from a community cohort on who’s becoming infected, when they’re becoming infected, and who’s getting sick from the infection. (Slide 3/6)

The Coler Lab at Seattle Children’s Research Institute is using their expertise to support the clinical trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine. (Slide 4/6)

Another collaborative research effort led by Dr. Peter Myler, a principal investigator at Seattle Children’s, has already contributed findings about for vaccine development efforts and new knowledge generated daily is expected to aid in drug development. (Slide 5/6)

Children and teens trying to make sense of what the COVID-19 pandemic means for their families and communities may feel more worry than usual. Any caregiver can take steps to help children and teens cope during this stressful time. (Slide 6/6)

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When health officials learned a Seattle Children’s patient tested positive for the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) in late February, it sent a ripple through health and scientific communities nationwide. It was the first example of community transmission in the state of Washington, indicating the virus causing COVID-19 had likely been spreading in Seattle and the surrounding region undetected.

It was a moment Seattle Children’s had prepared to face since establishing an incident command center more than one month prior. From this command center, teams from across the organization met to support advance planning and coordinate actions for a potential COVID-19 surge in the region.

“Before there were any confirmed cases in the U.S., Seattle Children’s anticipated the potential for an outbreak in our region,” said Dr. Jeff Sperring, Seattle Children’s Chief Executive Officer. “Over the past several weeks, we have provided specialized training for our team, established strict protocols for health and hygiene, and consolidated essential supplies so that we would be ready to protect our patients.”

Now other cities are turning to Seattle for insight on what to expect as the growing pandemic reaches their communities. On the Pulse offers a behind the scenes look at how the leading pediatric hospital and research institute at the epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak is responding to this quickly evolving global health issue. Read full post »

Childhood Tics: Will My Child Outgrow Them or is It Something More?

Childhood tics come in all shapes and sizes. Tics can range from a subtle nasal sniff or throat clearing to a more severe head snap or vocal outburst.

Tics that start in elementary school and continue during adolescence are also common. According to Dr. Dararat Mingbunjerdsuk, a neurologist that specializes in movement disorders at Seattle Children’s Neurosciences Center, up to 10-20% of school-age children may exhibit a tic at one point in their life.

“Tics that come and go are the most common cause of movement disorder we see in the clinic,” she said. “The vast majority of children eventually outgrow their tics or the tics become less frequent or less severe as the person enters adulthood.”
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For Mother-Daughter, Science and Medicine Run in the Family

Dr. Bonnie Ramsey (left) and Dr. Ann Dahlberg (right), are not only mother-daughter but also fellow clinical researchers and at Seattle Children’s.

When Dr. Bonnie Ramsey entered medical school at the advice of an undergraduate professor in the early 1970s, she and her female classmates at Harvard Medical School were still among the early coteries of women to pursue careers in science and medicine.

“We were the first bolus of women,” Ramsey said, using the medical term to describe their injection into a field dominated by male physicians. “It was interesting. When you are the first cohort, there is a tendency to compete with each other rather than work as a team.”

Since finding her footing in those early days, Ramsey has pioneered therapies improving the lives of children with cystic fibrosis (CF). Today, she leads all clinical research efforts at Seattle Children’s as the director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research.

Her career will no doubt leave a lasting impact for the future physicians, researchers and women that will follow her, but for Ramsey, it’s a personal legacy that makes her most proud. Over the last decade, she’s watched her daughter enter the medical field and become a formidable physician-scientist in her own right.

“I am so incredibly proud of her,” Ramsey said. “Watching what she has to juggle and balance is in some ways harder for me than doing what I did with no real generation ahead of me to look to for guidance.” Read full post »

Ellie Soars Thanks to Breakthrough Cystic Fibrosis Therapy

Ellie Osterloh, 17, participated in the clinical trial for Trikafta, a breakthrough cystic fibrosis therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2019. Photo courtesy of Audrey Redfern.

When 17-year-old Ellie Osterloh spins high above the ground from a lyra, a circular hoop used in aerial acrobatics like Cirque du Soleil, she feels empowered.

“On the lyra, it’s an incredible feeling to be so high in the air with no harnessing,” Ellie said. “It’s a lot of adrenaline and I feel like I can do anything.”

Now, thanks to Trikafta, a new drug approved in October 2019 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Ellie, who participated in the clinical trial for the drug, shares a similar zeal for her future.

“Even though it’s hard sometimes to be so optimistic, I’ve always thought it might be possible to go to college and have kids and a family of my own,” she said. “It’s crazy how my outlook has changed. I’m still processing all the possibilities.”

That’s because Ellie has lived her entire life with cystic fibrosis, a rare, progressive, life-threatening disease. She had her first appointment with Dr. Bonnie Ramsey, the director of Seattle Children’s Center for Clinical and Translation Research, still in her mother’s womb. Hours after birth she was transferred to Seattle Children’s where she began intensive therapy that she’s continued over the last 16 years.

“This is a really big step forward for Ellie and other people living with cystic fibrosis,” said Ramsey, a pioneer in cystic fibrosis treatment. “Ellie is a highly talented young lady with a bright future ahead of her.” Read full post »

Researchers Discover Areas in the Brain Where Nicotine Could Disrupt Early Brain Development

Neurons found in the brain stem gives new clue to nicotine, sudden infant death syndrome link. Source: Getty Images.

Researchers at Seattle Children’s Research Institute have discovered that populations of neurons in the brain stem have a previously unrecognized susceptibility to disruption by nicotine during early brain development.

Published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology, their findings offer a clue to how nicotine exposure in utero could have a lasting effect on the brain’s wiring and give rise to negative outcomes like sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Read full post »

New Contract Will Advance Tuberculosis Research

A federal contract awarded to Seattle Children’s will establish a new center to study tuberculosis. Source: Getty Images.

Seattle Children’s Research Institute is one of three recipients of $30 million in first-year-funding provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to establish centers for immunology research to accelerate progress in tuberculosis (TB) vaccine development.

The awards provide up to seven years of support for three Immune Mechanisms of Protection Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (IMPAc-TB) Centers to uncover the immune responses needed to protect against TB infection. In addition to Seattle Children’s, other IMPAc-TB centers will be led by the Infectious Disease Research Institute, also in Seattle, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

On the Pulse learned more about the significant research that will be funded by this award which has the potential to provide up to $83 million to the Cascade IMPAc-TB Center, led by Dr. Kevin Urdahl, a TB researcher in Seattle Children’s Center for Global Infectious Disease Research. Read full post »

Research Reveals How Malaria Parasite Plans Ahead, Preparing Blueprint to Strike in Humans

The parasite that causes malaria waits in the salivary glands of the mosquito until it has the opportunity to move to a human host. New research exploring this stage of the parasite offers findings that could help identify new strategies to protect against malaria. Photo: Getty Images.

Within seconds after an infected mosquito bites, the malaria parasite navigates the host skin and blood vessels to invade the liver, where it will stay embedded until thousands of infected cells burst into the bloodstream, launching malaria’s deadly blood-stage infection.

Now, for the first time, a team from Seattle Children’s Research Institute describes how malaria Plasmodium parasites prepare for this journey as they lie in waiting in the mosquito’s salivary glands. Researchers say this knowledge may help identify new strategies to block transmission of the parasite – a critically important step needed for the eradication of malaria, a disease that continues to sicken over 300 million people and kill an estimated 435,000 people worldwide every year. Read full post »

Genetic Study Evolves Understanding of Common Birth Defects of the Brain

Daniel Sokoloff and his mom, Lara Sokoloff, photographed here when Daniel was younger, were one of 100 families who contributed to a study aimed at understanding common birth defects of the brain.

In the largest genetic study of the most common birth defects of the brain diagnosed during pregnancy, researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute say their findings evolve our understanding of brain development. The findings will also change the information given to expecting parents when cerebellar malformations, such as Dandy-Walker malformation and cerebellar hypoplasia, are detected prenatally.

With funding support from the Dandy-Walker Alliance and the Philly Baer Foundation, the results gathered from 100 families provide the most accurate information to date about the genetic and non-genetic causes of birth defects involving the cerebellum. They will also help doctors counsel parents about their child’s prognosis after they’re born and their risk of having another child with the abnormality.

“For those who are pregnant, you certainly don’t want to have a problem with the baby, but if doctors detect a brain abnormality, you want accurate information about what that means,” said Dr. William Dobyns, the senior author on the paper published in the American Journal of Human Genetics and an investigator in the Center for Integrative Brain Research. “It’s the same after birth. If you have a child at risk for developmental challenges, it helps to know the cause and what’s going to happen. This study significantly advances our ability to answer those questions.” Read full post »

Seattle Scientists Teach Tibetan Monks Modern Cell Biology

Summer school is in session for researchers at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and although there are text books and a final exam, very little else about the biology course taught by Dr. Philip Morgan and his fellow scientist and wife, Dr. Margaret Sedensky, is business as usual. That’s because their students are Tibetan monks and their classroom is at a monastic university in southern India. Read full post »

A Stroke of Genius

Dr. Andy Shih is studying how tiny strokes called microinfarcts develop and impact the developing brain.

Strokes come in many shapes and sizes. In children and adults, strokes often present sudden limb or facial numbness, confusion and dizziness.

But some strokes that cause clots to develop in the small blood vessels of the brain don’t exhibit any symptoms at all. Studies have shown that hundreds to thousands of these small, asymptomatic strokes, known as microinfarcts, likely occur over the course of decades in adult brains and may contribute to cognitive decline as we age. Even less is known about the occurrence and consequences of microinfarcts in young, developing brains.

Enter Dr. Andy Shih, principal investigator at Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Shih hopes to solve the mystery of microinfarcts by using advanced optical imaging — modeling them in the lab and visualizing their effects in real-time. On the Pulse sat down with Shih to learn more about his work and how he’s applying his discoveries from studying dementia in aging brains to understanding how blood vessels and clots first emerge in the brain. Read full post »