Research

All Articles in the Category ‘Research’

Surprising Discovery Could Improve Malaria Detection Worldwide

New research could pave the way for a rapid screening test capable of diagnosing submicroscopic malaria infections.

While the global health community has made great strides toward eradicating malaria through prevention and treatment strategies, rapid and inexpensive methods to diagnose submicroscopic malaria in individuals who have no clinical symptoms and undetectable levels of disease-causing parasites in their blood remain an unmet need.

With the unexpected discovery of a panel of peptides from several proteins encoded by the parasite that causes malaria, new research underway at Seattle Children’s Research Institute could pave the way for a rapid screening test capable of diagnosing submicroscopic infections.

Such a diagnostic test could permit the widespread screening of all individuals in high-risk regions – a practice global health experts agree is likely required to eradicate malaria. It could also provide a way to diagnose submicroscopic malaria infections during pregnancy, which bring substantial health risks for the pregnant woman, her fetus, and the newborn child. Read full post »

Study Shows How Group B Strep Establishes In Utero Infection, Posing Risk to Baby

Dr. Lakshmi Rajagopal’s lab at Seattle Children’s Center for Global and Infectious Disease Research is studying how group B strep establishes an invasive in utero infection during pregnancy.

Group B strep (group B streptococcus or GBS) is a common bacteria present in the vagina of about 1 in 4 women. In the U.S. and other developed countries, pregnant women are tested for GBS with those who test positive given antibiotics to help protect babies from infection. In low resource settings where GBS testing and treatment is often not accessible, invasive GBS infection leads to a large percentage of still births and an estimated 3.5 million preterm births each year.

Despite the substantial impact on pregnancy outcomes, scientists know little about how GBS establishes an in utero infection. In a paper published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Dr. Lakshmi Rajagopal, a principal investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Global Infectious Disease Research describes a newly uncovered mechanism by which GBS gains access to a woman’s uterus. Read full post »

I Was Not Ready to Die: How Seattle Children’s Immunotherapy Saved My Life

Aaron (left) poses with Dr. Mike Jensen, director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, at the Strong Against Cancer CELLebration fundraising event.

Seattle Children’s doctors and researchers are leading efforts to better treat cancer in children, adolescents and young adults by boosting the immune system with T-cell immunotherapy. Patients who cannot be cured with standard therapies are benefiting from clinical trials developed at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, and supported by the Strong Against Cancer initiative. 

One of these patients is Aaron. When he feared he might be out of treatment options, Aaron found hope at Seattle Children’s. Now, he shares his story.

Cancer is such an ugly word. On the internet, it has become normal for people to use it to describe things, ideas or people they don’t like. But for me, that word only brings back painful memories of fighting a disease I would not wish on my worst enemies.

I was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2013. I was 19 years old, living in Vancouver, Canada, and studying computer science at Simon Fraser University.

I became suddenly ill while on a cruise vacation with my family. I had a fever that wouldn’t go away; nausea for no reason; and extreme fatigue. I needed to sleep all the time. I could barely walk. Climbing a flight of stairs felt like trying to climb Mount Everest.

We knew something was very wrong, so my family took me to the Emergency Department at Vancouver General Hospital.

I still remember lying on the hospital bed after the doctor delivered the bad news — I had leukemia. I couldn’t believe it. I asked the nurse as he was putting in my IV, “How long do you think it’ll take before I get better?”

He replied, “My friend, I’m afraid this is just the beginning of a long and difficult journey for you.”

Read full post »

Out of Breath? Braking Neurons Play Surprising Role in Rapid Breathing

New research from Seattle Children’s offers fresh insight into how the brain sets the pace of breathing.

Next time a workout has you winded, the inhibitory neurons in your brain may be to blame. This is according to new research from Seattle Children’s Research Institute that offers fresh insight into how the brain sets the pace of breathing.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers used laser light to manipulate very specific classes of neurons responsible for breathing. The technique, known as optogenetics, helps scientists isolate neurons in the brain to study their function.

When stimulated in the lab, the researchers found excitatory neurons – the brain’s go signal – actually slow breathing, while inhibitory neurons – the brain’s stop signal – intervene to make breathing more rapid. In addition to explaining how the brain adapts breathing in response to everyday cues, the finding could lead to more precise treatments for neurological conditions that frequently involve breathing abnormalities. Read full post »

5 Developments in the Pipeline at Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Dr. Jim Hendricks, president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Ranked as one of the top pediatric research centers in the U.S., Seattle Children’s Research Institute has accomplished so much in its 11-year history, and there is much to look forward to in 2018. Here, Dr. Jim Hendricks, president of Seattle Children’s Research Institute shares with On the Pulse what’s in store for the year ahead.  

1. Cancer immunotherapy

Seattle Children’s continued immunotherapy work is going to be very exciting this year.

In 2017, Seattle Children’s opened three new clinical trials offering innovative chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapies for children and young adults with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Currently, there are four Pediatric Leukemia Adoptive Therapy clinical trials underway at Seattle Children’s (PLAT-02, PLAT-03, PLAT-04 and PLAT-05), with others expected to open this year. Read full post »

Teen Proves Kawasaki Disease is Not One Size Fits All

Audrey, pictured here with her cello before Kawasaki disease caused a large aneurysm to form in her heart.

Whether she’s performing in her school’s jazz band, teaching cello, painting or working as a YMCA counselor, Audrey Wright, 16, seems to do it all. She especially doesn’t let an aneurysm in her heart that developed as a result of Kawasaki disease get in the way of being a busy teenager and her dreams of majoring in studio art.

Audrey was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a serious illness that causes inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body, after coming down with what she and everyone else thought was a really bad viral infection. Despite visiting her pediatrician four times in six days, it wasn’t until her blood pressure dipped dangerously low that she was transported to Seattle Children’s. There, doctors in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit began to unravel the mystery of what was causing her illness.

“Once they got the report back, all of the pediatricians she had seen before coming to the hospital couldn’t believe it was Kawasaki disease,” Karen Wright, Audrey’s mom, said. “They were pretty shocked because she’s not the typical patient.” Read full post »

Matched to the Perfect Target, Drug Dramatically Shrinks Tumors in All Ages, Multiple Cancers

Ashton Leeds, 8, was treated with larotrectinib at Seattle Children’s for thyroid cancer that had spread to his lungs and lymph nodes.

EDITOR’S UPDATE: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the cancer drug Vitrakvi (previously known as larotrectinib). Vitrakvi is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with metastatic or unresectable solid tumors that have a NTRK gene fusion without a known acquired resistance mutation, and have no satisfactory alternative treatments options or whose cancer has progressed following treatment. Read more about this landmark decision. 

Dr. Doug Hawkins, division chief of Hematology and Oncology at Seattle Children’s, remembers matching one of the first pediatric cancer patients to an experimental drug that targets a specific set of genetic alterations associated with soft tissue tumors. The drug, larotrectinib, is designed to selectively stop the resulting abnormal tropomyosin receptor kinase (TRK) fusion proteins from promoting cancer cell growth.

“I was so excited to share the test results with the family and present them with the option of enrolling in a clinical trial for this new medication,” Hawkins said. “At the time, I had a pretty good inkling the drug was going to work, but there was very limited evidence of its effectiveness in children. It’s incredibly special that families were willing to take a chance on this drug early on.”

Today, the promising evidence in support of larotrectinib is building. A paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine documents the drug’s effectiveness in treating TRK fusion-positive cancers regardless of patient age or tumor type. The paper includes data from 55 patients, ages 4 months to 76 years and representing 17 different TRK fusion-positive tumor types, treated with larotrectinib. Overall, 75% of patients responded to the treatment and at one year, 71% experienced no disease progression since starting treatment. Read full post »

3D-Printed Heart Transforms Family’s Understanding of Complex Heart Disease

Auren Satake, 17 months, was born with a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Rachael Satake holds a 3D-printed replica of her son’s heart condition in her hands during a recent appointment at Seattle Children’s Heart Center. For the first time since learning about the defect midway through pregnancy, she clearly sees how the surgeries he has undergone are helping his heart work despite having only one ventricle.

Her son, Auren, has a serious congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), which means he was born missing the left ventricle of his heart. His right ventricle works double time to supply blood to both his lungs and the rest of his body. Read full post »

Study Finds Neuron Inhibition May be Key in New Treatments for Addiction

New research suggests inhibiting one group of neurons’ activity may prove to be a highly effective treatment for reducing relapse in recovering addicts.

A new study published by researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute reveals how neurons in the brain fuel drug-seeking behavior following compulsive drug use. Their findings, published online in Addiction Biology, suggest inhibiting one group of neurons’ activity may prove to be a highly effective treatment for reducing relapse in recovering addicts.

While the science of addiction is beginning to show how pathological drug use causes the brain’s “go” pathway to become overactive, little is known about what renders some individuals vulnerable to developing addiction and what protects others against it. There are also few effective treatments available to people who develop a drug addiction, or the approximately 90% of individuals who relapse following addiction treatment.

Dr. Susan Ferguson, a principal investigator in the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s and senior author on the study, describes how her team used an experimental approach called chemogenetic inhibition to probe the relationship between brain activity and behavior in drug addiction. Read full post »

A Real-World Lab Gives Students Hands-on STEM Experience

From left to right: Puget Sound Skills Center BioMedical Research and Global Health program students Maryan Farah, Samantha Johnson and Lul Abdinoor. Offered in collaboration with Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the course is the first-of-its kind at a Washington state Career and Technical Education school.

On the day On the Pulse visited the BioMedical Research and Global Health program at Highline Public Schools’ Puget Sound Skills Center (PSSC), the students were preparing to extract DNA from plant specimens in order to learn about a process used by scientists for studying DNA.

Instructor, Dr. Noelle Machnicki, reviewed the protocol, including a detailed description of lysis – a process the students would be using to break open the cells – and then sent them to their benches to get started.

Machnicki, a biologist with a doctorate degree, skilled educator and a member of the Science Education Department at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, was immediately drawn to the opportunity to teach the first-of-its-kind yearlong program offered in a partnership between Seattle Children’s and the PSSC.

“The program intends to create a strong foundation in biological sciences for high school juniors and seniors through extensive hands-on laboratory experience and other educational and leadership opportunities,” said Machnicki. “It provides research training beyond what a student would get in a typical high school science class.” Read full post »