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On the Pulse

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.

Tune into 60 Minutes this Sunday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. ET/PT as Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, discusses with Anderson Cooper the evolving digital age children are growing up in today and how his research hopes to uncover the impact this new era has 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,” said Christakis. “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 »


Researchers Share Key Learnings From T-Cell Immunotherapy Trials

Harper Beare was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was just 10 months old. After she wasn’t able to achieve remission through conventional treatment, she traveled to Seattle Children’s to participate in the PLAT-05 T-cell immunotherapy trial. Soon after, Harper was in remission.

Seattle Children’s doctors and researchers continue to believe chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy has the power to revolutionize pediatric cancer care. Over the past year, they have made tremendous progress with the promising therapy, which has given patients like Harper Beare, Erin Cross and Milton Wright a second chance at life.

Seattle Children’s recently enrolled its 200th immunotherapy patient, and now has nine T-cell therapy trials targeting childhood cancers from leukemia to solid tumors, which is one of the most robust pipelines in the country.

Seattle Children’s researchers are continuously discovering new best practices based on their experience in the trials, and as a result, will share six abstracts this weekend at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting in San Diego.

“It’s amazing to be at a place in our research where we’re learning from our existing trials, and immediately incorporating that vital intel into our new trials,” said Dr. Rebecca Gardner, oncologist at Seattle Children’s and principal investigator for the PLAT-02 and PLAT-05 CAR T-cell immunotherapy trials. “We are also pleased to now offer several new trials to patients who would otherwise be out of treatment options. Our goal is to offer the best therapy possible, and to never let any patient reach the end of the line.”

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Annie Faces Her Fears and Conquers Her Anxiety

Julie Munko tried to manage her daughter Annie’s anxiety on her own until she found a therapeutic program at Seattle Children’s that dramatically improved their lives.

Imagine if you had a child who cried themselves to sleep at night because they had no friends; who called themselves “horrible” and drew disparaging images of themselves in their journal; who suffered physical pain when they wore clothes or gave you a hug.

This was once the reality for Julie Munko and her daughter Annie, who suffered from an anxiety disorder. But today, their lives are completely different, thanks to skill-based therapy at Seattle Children’s that pushed Annie outside of her comfort zone.

Crawling out of her skin

Munko first noticed Annie’s anxious behavior in fourth grade. Annie desperately avoided the school library and cried at night if she had to go there the following day. She no longer wanted to sleep over with friends or go to parties.

By fifth grade, it began affecting her school life. Annie became distressed if she unexpectedly had a substitute teacher. She ran out of the classroom if her computer was not working properly. Annie was an excellent student but panicked if her teacher’s instructions were unclear or if she was having trouble with an assignment.

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After a Long Journey of Nose Reconstruction, Tristan is Smiling Again

Tristan, 9, recently underwent a three-stage nose reconstruction.

For most of the past year, 9-year-old Tristan Beck has been on a long, challenging journey toward nose reconstruction after a traumatic accident left him with a missing nose.

December 20, 2017 was a normal day of winter break for the Beck family. Tristan and his older sister were visiting their mother’s office to drop off food for a party. When they returned to the car, a dog was in the parking lot, showing no signs of aggression. However, when Tristan began to throw the dog a piece of food, it lunged at Tristan’s face and pulled him down. Tristan’s sister pulled him back, and the dog ran away.

All Tina Beck, Tristan’s mother, remembers is the blood on his face when his sister brought him back into her office.

“There was so much blood it was hard to see exactly what was wrong,” said Beck. “It was very hard for me to look at my son at first. My heart hurt and I was blaming myself for what had happened, but I wanted to be strong for him.”

The family called 911, and Tristan was transported to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department. Read full post »


Singing During Brain Surgery, Kira Performs to Preserve Her Passion

About four years ago, Kira Iaconetti, 19, began noticing something weird that would happen when she was singing or listening to music.

“It was like a light switch turned off in my brain,” said Iaconetti, a talented self-taught musician who has been performing in musicals since she was 6 years old. “Suddenly, I was tone deaf, I couldn’t process the words in time with the music and I couldn’t sing.” Read full post »


Zack Finds His Beat Amidst a Life Full of Challenges

For 13-year-old Zack Edge, playing the drums came naturally ever since he laid his eyes on his very first drum set at 3 years old.

Yet other parts of Zack’s life didn’t come so naturally, such as his ability to stand or walk.

“Zack was born with cerebral palsy,” said his mother Sara Edge, “and over the course of his short lifetime he’s gone through a lot and has had to overcome so much.”

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition that affects muscle movement. The muscles of some children with CP are stiff and rigid, which is called spasticity that leads to stiffness in the muscle and joints causing movement to be very difficult.

“It wasn’t until we went to Seattle Children’s that Zack’s life completely changed,” said Edge.

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Scientist Reflects on Lessons Learned From Nobel Prize Winner

Dr. Shuyi Ma, an infectious disease researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, as an undergraduate student at the California Institute of Technology.

As a female scientist studying tuberculosis (TB) in the Center for Global Infectious Disease Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Dr. Shuyi Ma was ecstatic to learn that her undergraduate mentor became the fifth woman in history to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. She shares her reaction to the news and how her mentor helped shaped her career with On the Pulse.   

When I first heard the news that Dr. Frances Arnold had won the 2018 Nobel Prize, I cried aloud in delight as I jumped up and down in my kitchen. Frances was my academic and research advisor when I was an undergraduate student at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), so waking up to the news of this global recognition was one of the most exhilarating mornings I’ve ever had.

I started working with Frances as a sophomore. It was amazing to me that her lab was able to apply engineering to biology, so I had asked her if I could learn how she did this. Although I had never worked in an experimental lab before, Frances took a chance on me, giving me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with her craft, and it in turn crafted me into the scientist I am today.  I still hold close the many lessons she imparted on me, using them to guide my scientific career. Read full post »


Baby With Heart Defects Makes a Dramatic Recovery

Carolina Castañeda and Jesus Farias were driving home from a family outing with Olivia, their newborn daughter, when they heard her making a strange noise. As first-time parents, they thought it might be normal. However, when Olivia continued making the sound, the couple began to worry. They stopped the car, took Olivia out of the car seat, and noticed that her body had gone limp.

“Her hands and legs just stopped moving,” said Castañeda. “I didn’t know what was normal, but it did not look normal at all.”

Castañeda was startled to see Olivia’s blue lips and her eyes rolling back. The couple rushed their daughter to the nearest hospital in Yakima, trying to keep her awake. When they arrived, Olivia’s eyes were closed.

“Nurses ran around the desk and took her out of my arms – they didn’t even ask questions,” said Castañeda. “It all happened so fast.”

Doctors told the family that Olivia’s body had worked so hard to stay alive that her vessels were shutting down. When Olivia finally opened her eyes and looked around, Castañeda said she remembers feeling at peace, like everything was going to be okay.

The hospital flew Olivia to Seattle Children’s from the Yakima airport. The family was told that a helicopter would have been too slow for Olivia, in her condition.

The new parents were shocked to learn that their 2-week-old baby was in cardiogenic shock due to critical congenital heart defects and she would need surgery from Seattle Children’s Heart Center.

“Everything was scary,” said Castañeda. “She was my baby, she was my firstborn.”

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More than Skin Deep: Providing Patients With ‘The Realness’

Dr. Markus Boos and his twin sons.

As a pediatric dermatologist at Seattle Children’s, Dr. Markus Boos shares his experiences as both a doctor and father, and the compassion he strives to bring to his patients to help them find hope in times of struggle.

I recently had a patient return to my clinic for a follow-up visit. One month prior, I had treated her for a couple of minor skin issues. At that time, I had instructed her to return to the clinic for additional care, if she experienced any symptoms again.

When she came back a few weeks later, I was surprised to see her. Her skin had healed, and she was doing well.

After I inquired about the reason for her visit, her mother replied, “because she simply wanted you to know she was doing better.”

“She also wanted you to know that you’re her favorite doctor.”

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Tailor-Made Fish Help Explain Genetic Conditions in Children

At Seattle Children’s Research Institute, scientists are genetically-engineering zebrafish to harbor human DNA mutations known to contribute congenital conditions in children.

More than five years ago, when Dr. Lisa Maves, a scientist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, first started using CRISPR to make genetic alterations in zebrafish, she saw the potential for the minnow-sized fish to help doctors understand how genetic mutations contribute to a child’s condition.

“Essentially, we set out to make a patient’s fish,” Maves said. “The zebrafish has a genome that is remarkably similar to humans. As new gene editing technology was just becoming available, I wondered whether we could use this technology to create a fish that mimicked the complex genetic conditions we see in children.”

Maves hypothesized that genetically engineering the fish in this manner would help uncover how different genes affect development and cause disease. Read full post »