Research

All Articles in the Category ‘Research’

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 »

Helping Families Navigate the Digital World

Digital devices like the iPad have only been around for about 10 years, but in that short amount of time, they have become ingrained into everyday life and research examining their impact on young children is limited.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, was featured on the TODAY Show to discuss the evolving digital age children are growing up in. Watch as three families learn more about how their children interact with devices like the iPad and hear about the challenges Christakis faces as technology continues to advance at a much faster rate than our understanding of the impact of digital devices on a child’s developing mind.

It may seem as though digital devices and touch screens like the iPad have been around for decades, but the reality is that these devices have only been around for about 10 years. In that short amount of time, they have become ingrained into everyday life, but research on their impact is limited. What concerns researchers like Dr. Dimitri Christakis is that we don’t yet understand the effects these devices may have on young children, and so that’s why they’ve taken center stage in many of his research studies.

Christakis isn’t advocating for taking screens away from children. He simply hopes he can help parents and caregivers better understand and navigate how devices like the iPad can fit into their lives in a healthy way.

“The point isn’t that we should take away all digital devices, but rather that we should come at it from a different perspective,” Christakis said. “We should ask, ‘How can we help children live healthy lives in a digital world that they’re immersed in from birth?” Read full post »

Fighting to Give Every Child With Cancer a Chance to Become a Parent

Taylor Tran (left) and her mother Mai Nguyen. Taylor underwent cancer treatment when she was 2 years old, causing her to go into early menopause when she was just 16.

“You pay the price for having cancer over and over again.”

Mai Nguyen’s words are loaded with sorrow as she speaks about her 17-year-old daughter, Taylor Tran, who is dealing with fertility concerns more than a decade after she survived late-stage cancer.

It’s easy to understand the exasperation Nguyen feels: Her daughter was diagnosed with stage 3 single-cell sarcoma of the kidney when she was 2 years old and was treated with intense chemotherapy and radiation. Now, the treatments that saved her life have put her into early menopause.

“It’s been traumatic,” Nguyen said. “We’ve tried so hard to allow Taylor to have a normal childhood and this feels like one more thing cancer has taken from her.”

Stories like Taylor’s inspired Seattle Children’s urologist Dr. Margarett Shnorhavorian to tackle a challenging area of research that was largely uncharted more than a decade ago. Since then, she’s helped change perspectives and protocols for fertility preservation in childhood cancer survivors. 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 »

Fine-Tuning CAR T-cell Immunotherapy to Benefit More Kids

Madeline Boese was one of the patients in Seattle Children’s PLAT-03 trial.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy, which reprograms a child’s white blood cells so they can seek out and destroy cancer cells, is making a difference in children’s lives. Currently, Seattle Children’s has multiple trials open that could benefit children and young adults with relapsed or refractory cancers. In October, Seattle Children’s opened a new pediatric research facility, Building Cure, to accelerate discoveries such as immunotherapy.

Seattle Children’s researchers are continuing to realize the promise of CAR T-cell immunotherapy and improve outcomes in difficult to treat pediatric cancers. They are applying knowledge gained from ongoing clinical trials to study effects on the youngest patients, develop new interventions to prevent side effects and boost T-cell persistence, and to better understand resistance to therapy.

Research recently published in major scientific journals and presented at the 2019 American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting contributes new insight guiding the evolution of the experimental therapy. Here, On the Pulse summarizes their findings. 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 »

Families Raise Awareness of Rare, Underdiagnosed Lung Disease

Isabelle Zoerb, 13, has a rare genetic disorder called primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD).

Like a typical 13-year-old, Isabelle Zoerb plays volleyball and tap dances. She also regularly uses an inhaler, takes antibiotics to minimize lung inflammation and wears a therapy vest that vibrates to help clear her lungs. A device in her chest provides intravenous medication when needed.

This is because Isabelle has primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), a rare genetic condition. Cilia are tiny hair-like cells in airways that beat in a coordinated way that clear out germs, mucous and particulates like dust from the respiratory tract. In people with PCD, cilia do not beat properly, which prevents bacteria from clearing the lungs, sinuses, nose and ears.

When Caroline Zoerb adopted Isabelle from China as a toddler, Isabelle’s organs were reversed like a mirror image. She had been born with a hole in her heart and was constantly sick. Seeking answers, the family met Dr. Margaret Rosenfeld, an attending physician and researcher at Seattle Children’s, who thought she might have PCD based on her symptoms.

Seattle Children’s is the only PCD referral center in the Pacific Northwest, with patients coming from Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Alaska and Montana. Providers see patients for regular follow-ups to make sure their needs are being met and they are responding to their therapies.

“We always seem to make our way to Seattle Children’s because they have the expertise to help someone with such a rare disease,” Zoerb said. Read full post »

Global Clinical Trial Aims to Improve Therapies for Pediatric Acute Leukemia

Seattle Children’s will embark on a groundbreaking clinical trial that will potentially transform treatment methods for children with relapsed acute pediatric leukemia.

In collaboration with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), Dr. Todd Cooper, an oncologist and director of the Seattle Children’s High-Risk Leukemia Program, is part of a team leading the effort to launch a global precision medicine master clinical trial called the LLS Pediatric Acute Leukemia (PedAL) Initiative. The goal of the trial, which is part of The LLS Children’s Initiative: Cures and Care for Children, is to test multiple targeted therapies simultaneously at up to 200 clinical sites, including Seattle Children’s, worldwide.

Cooper, the Clinical Trial Lead, will oversee the master screening trial where children with newly diagnosed and relapsed acute leukemia can choose to have their clinical and biologic information included in an international database. This database will serve many purposes, including helping to determine an individual child’s eligibility for a number of targeted clinical trials. The data will also be used to uncover new targets for therapy and as a rich source for groundbreaking discoveries.

On the Pulse sat down with Cooper to discuss the specifics of the trial and how it will possibly revolutionize the types of cancer treatments available for children.

Read full post »