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Scientist Develops New Way to Test for COVID-19 Antibodies

A newly developed cell-free test can rapidly detect COVID-19 neutralizing antibodies and could aid in vaccine testing and drug discovery efforts.

When Dr. Stephen Smith of Seattle Children’s Research Institute came down with muscle aches, gastrointestinal distress and a sudden loss of smell in late February, he suspected he had COVID-19. The testing criteria had yet to be expanded to include individuals with Smith’s symptoms and so he did what many scientists with his expertise would do: he developed a way to test himself.

The fruits of his curiosity, now published in the The Journal of Infectious Diseases, offer a reliable way to quantify whether an individual has neutralizing antibodies that could prevent the novel coronavirus from infecting cells using a method that is more broadly applicable than those currently available.

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“It’s Been Hard, But There’s Hope”: Family Joins Experts to Shed Light on AFM

Maxford Brown, 16, with his family at Seattle Children’s. Maxford was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in 2017. Pictured from left to right: (front) Maxford and his younger brother, Zachary; (back) Maxford’s dad, Jeff; mom, Tracy; and older sister, Grace.

It’s been over three years since Maxford Brown woke up one morning not feeling well. Neither Maxford nor his family had any idea that it would mark the beginning of a life-changing journey with a rare, but serious neurological condition called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM.

“I suggested it might help for him to lay down. When I went to wake him up, he had lost all ability to move on his own,” remembered his mom.

In a state of shock, Tracy Brown called their pediatrician to describe what had happened to her son.

“I remember asking our doctor if we should make an appointment,” she said. “That’s when they told me we needed to get Maxford to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department right away.” Read full post »

Making Sense of Restless Sleep Disorder in Children

Emily Caveness, 9, had always been a very active sleeper. When her lack of restful sleep started disrupting her social and school life, her parents sought the help of sleep medicine experts at Seattle Children’s where they first learned of restless sleep disorder in children.

An international panel of sleep experts is adding a new pediatric sleep disorder they call restless sleep disorder, or RSD, to parents’ and pediatricians’ radars.

Led by Seattle Children’s pediatric sleep specialist, Dr. Lourdes DelRosso, the group shares their consensus on a medical definition of RSD in a new paper published in Sleep Medicine. Known to occur in children 6-18 years old, RSD can lead to attention impairment, mood and behavioral problems and other issues at home and school due to poor sleep quality.

“For many years, those of us in sleep medicine have recognized a pattern of sleep that affected a child’s behavior but didn’t fit the criteria for other known sleep disorders or conditions linked to restless sleep like obstructive apnea or restless legs syndrome,” DelRosso said. “This work provides consensus on a definition and diagnostic criteria for RSD, offering a new tool to help more children suffering from restless sleep.” Read full post »

Reaching New Heights: Champion for Pediatric Research Reflects on National Role

Recently appointed to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Advisory Committee for Human Research Protections (SACHRP), Dr. Douglas Diekema is a passionate champion for the patients and families who participate in research studies. Here, Diekema is photographed enjoying another passion: hiking and mountaineering.

As a newly appointed member of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Advisory Committee for Human Research Protections (SACHRP), Dr. Douglas Diekema has always had a passion for interpreting and applying the regulatory laws for research involving human subjects to support the children and families that participate in research at Seattle Children’s.

Although he just assumed his role on the national committee that guides medical research activity across the U.S. this July, Diekema is no stranger to research oversight: he has served as the chair of Seattle Children’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the last two decades. In his time as chair, he’s witnessed Seattle Children’s Research Institute grow from a fledgling initiative into the burgeoning enterprise it is today, overseeing hundreds of research studies across nearly every pediatric specialty.

Here, Diekema reflects on what he’s most looking forward to as a member of SACHRP and why it’s very likely you’ve never heard of an IRB before. Read full post »

With Cancer on the Back Burner, Champion Junior Chef Cooks Up His Dreams

Fuller Goldsmith, 16, has always dreamed of being a top chef.

After winning the Food Network’s Chopped Jr. reality TV cooking competition, Fuller Goldsmith, 16, was well on his way to achieving his dreams of becoming a professional chef. It was a future that was soon in jeopardy when life for the aspiring chef took an uncertain, but all too familiar turn. In late 2018, Fuller learned his cancer had returned for a fourth time.

Having undergone treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) since age 3, Fuller was out of standard treatment options. Their local oncologist told the Goldsmiths about the cancer immunotherapy clinical trials at Seattle Children’s. He thought the experimental chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy, which engineers a patient’s own immune cells to target and eliminate cancer cells, might offer the best hope for Fuller. Read full post »

New Discovery Paves Way for Next-Generation Malaria Vaccine

Drs. Debashree Goswami (front) and Nana Minkah are working with their Kappe Lab colleagues to develop a vaccine for malaria. New research published by Goswami and her teammates paves the way for a novel, next generation vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the deadliest form of malaria in humans.

In an unprecedented first, scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute have developed a genetically attenuated parasite (GAP) that arrests late in the liver stage of human malaria. Their findings published in JCI Insight pave the way for a novel, next-generation GAP vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the deadliest form of malaria in humans.

According to Dr. Debashree Goswami, a fellow in the Kappe Lab at the research institute’s Center for Global Infectious Disease Research and lead author of the paper, a vaccine candidate based on their findings has the potential to offer protection to those living in regions where the transmission of malaria is widespread throughout the population. Read full post »

Engineered T Cells for Type 1 Diabetes Move Closer to Clinic

Dr. Jane Buckner of the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason and Dr. David Rawlings of Seattle Children’s Research Institute are leading gene editing research to develop new therapies for autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes.

For much of the last decade, Dr. David Rawlings, director of Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Immunity and Immunotherapies, has dreamed of developing a therapy for children with type 1 diabetes that doesn’t involve insulin injections but uses a person’s own immune cells to target and treat the disease.

Now, new research and a fresh infusion of funding bring this dream closer to reality, and nearer to opening a first-in-human clinical trial of an experimental therapy at Seattle Children’s in collaboration with research partner Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI).

“What started as a dream is now within reach,” Rawlings said. “My hope is that our research will lead to a new treatment that turns off the destructive immune response leading to development of type 1 diabetes in children.” Read full post »

Are Children Making Antibodies That Will Protect Against Future COVID-19 Infections?

More than 50 research studies to understand, detect, treat and prevent the novel coronavirus in children and families have launched at Seattle Children’s since the virus emerged in late 2019. The following post is part of the “Quest(ion) for Discovery” series highlighting this research in progress and the search for answers that could result in major scientific breakthroughs that save lives and slow the spread of the virus.

When Dr. Janet Englund, a member of the Center for Clinical Translational Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, received news in late February that a Seattle Children’s patient had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and represented the first example of community transmission in Washington state, she knew things as we knew them were never going to be the same.

Englund, who has long studied respiratory viruses and their transmission in children and frequently provides her expertise as part of national scientific advisory panels, believed we were facing something very different from any pandemic Seattle – or the world for that matter – had ever seen before.

She and her collaborators quickly proposed supplements to their existing studies primarily focused on seasonal influenza, so they could begin to learn about how the new coronavirus impacts children. One study, which she discusses in greater detail here, asks: Are children making antibodies that will protect against future COVID-19 infections? Read full post »

How Might COVID-19 Reshape this Generation of Children?

More than 50 research studies to understand, detect, treat and prevent the novel coronavirus in children and families have launched at Seattle Children’s since the virus emerged in late 2019. The following post is part of the “Quest(ion) for Discovery” series highlighting this research in progress and the search for answers that could result in major scientific breakthroughs that save lives and slow the spread of the virus.

An expert in screen time for children, Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, leads a team of researchers out of Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development. In a recently published editorial in JAMA Pediatrics, Christakis argues that it’s critical to focus on overlooked decisions, such as the return to school, in the wake of the COVID-19 surge because of its lasting implications for children.

Here, he shares research his team has proposed to understand some of the effects of COVID-19 on child development and wellness while addressing the question: How might COVID-19 reshape this generation of children? Read full post »

Should Schools Go Screen-Free: Study Reveals Significant Portion of U.S. Middle and High Schools Do Not Limit Phone Use During Lunch or Recess

The latest screen-time related research from Dr. Pooja Tandon, a child health and development expert at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, was inspired by her oldest son.

“When my son entered middle school, I learned that students in many middle and high schools were allowed to have their phones with them at all times,” Tandon said. “I looked into this a bit more and found that even in schools where policies limited use during class, cell phones could still be used unrestricted during lunch and recess.”

This struck Tandon, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, whose research focuses on promoting healthy active and outdoor play for children and teens.

“My fellow pediatricians and I follow guidelines that recommend children and teens enjoy two hours of age-appropriate recreational screen time a day,” she said. “Yet, many children may be spending most of their waking hours in school with what could be unsupervised and unrestricted access to their phones.” Read full post »