On the Pulse

Food as Medicine: High-Fat Keto Diet Prescribed to Treat Epilepsy

Neurologists at Seattle Children’s prescribe the ketogenic diet for the treatment of epilepsy and other neurological conditions.

Doctors first started using the ketogenic diet to treat patients with epilepsy in the 1920s. While the diet has evolved over the decades to include less strict versions, and is gaining mainstream popularity for weight loss, children with epilepsy and other neurological conditions continue to benefit from its seizure-controlling effects.

The ketogenic diet team at Seattle Children’s Neurosciences Center takes a modern approach to help families use food as medicine. Here, ketogenic diet team members, neurologist Dr. Christopher Beatty; advanced practice provider Haley Sittner; clinical dietitian Marta Mazzanti; and nurse Deborah Rogers discuss how the diet works and how the team sets families up for success on the ketogenic diet. 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 »


When a Child Dies, Program Helps Grieving Siblings

Jenna and Braden Westerholm play together. Braden lost his sister to rhabdomyosarcoma in 2009.

In February 2006, Chris and Michele Westerholm’s 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Jenna, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma – a cancer made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles. At the time, Michele was 11-weeks pregnant with her son Braden.

“It was frightening to imagine what life would be like, having a child with cancer and a newborn,” Michele said. “I didn’t have the time or the energy to plan for adding a new baby to our family.” 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 »


Doctors Double the Length of Anna’s Arms, Giving Her Independence

Lisa went into labor expecting her daughter wouldn’t survive.

Lisa Booth was 40 weeks and 6 days into what had been a completely normal pregnancy when she received unexpected news during an ultrasound.

“Everything was fine at 9 a.m. At noon, I was told my daughter would be a dwarf. By 4 p.m., I was told she wasn’t going to survive,” said Booth. “I went home in a completely shell-shocked state.”

Hours later, Booth went into labor expecting the worst.

“Going into labor I was thinking she wouldn’t survive,” she said. Read full post »


A Surgeon’s Legacy Advances Surgical Care in India

A decade ago, the late Seattle Children’s surgeon, Dr. Richard Grady, began traveling to India for a special mission — to provide urgent surgical care to children born with a rare and complex disorder called bladder exstrophy (BE).

Grady’s dedication to helping under-resourced children in India led to the development of a unique international collaborative that aimed to alleviate the global burden of this surgically treatable disease, as documented in a recent article published in JAMA Surgery.

Dr. Paul Merguerian, division chief of urology at Seattle Children’s, who is helping to carry on Grady’s inspirational work, recalls his colleague’s passionate commitment to care for children not only in the Pacific Northwest region, but in a country located more than 7,000 miles across the globe.

Read full post »


Agatha Comes One Step Closer to Her Dream Come True

Agatha and her brother order ice cream at their favorite ice cream shop, Scoop Du Jour.

Nearly half a mile away from 10-year-old Agatha Holloway’s home is a quaint family owned ice cream shop called Scoop Du Jour. It’s her favorite ice cream shop, and she’s always dreamed of being able to walk there. But until recently, that journey was physically too far for her to walk.

Agatha’s declining mobility made walking long distances impossible, but today, thanks to Seattle Children’s Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Medicine teams, Agatha’s dream has come true. 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 »


Bike Safety Fiction and Facts

For many children and teens, biking in the driveway, around the neighborhood, or to a nearby school or park provides a sense of freedom and adventure.

Not only can biking be fun, it can also be beneficial to a child’s physical health — strengthening their heart, lungs, muscles and bones — as well as mental health, supporting learning and development.

With activities like biking, it’s always important to practice safety. However, with so many different resources available for families, it can be difficult to decide what bike safety practices are reliable and effective to teach their children.

Dr. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s, separates facts from fiction when it comes to bike safety, and shares tips from the dynamic perspective of a provider, educator and parent.

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 »