2015 Articles and Releases

New CDI Projects Underway

The Center for Pediatric Pulmonary Disease launched two new projects

Yi-Chieh Perng, PhD, medicine, received a CDI fellowship award to study a class of drugs being developed for other diseases that may be an effective treatment for cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection. CMV can cause serious illness in newborns and in bone marrow stem cell transplant patients. If the drugs are proven effective, more studies will be performed that could lead to pilot studies in humans.

Leonard Bacharier, MD, pediatrics, and Avraham Beigelman, MD, pediatrics, received a grant to uncover how bacteria in the upper airway and in the gastrointestinal tract, influence the development of asthma following RSV bronchiolitis – inflammation in the small airways of the lung. About 50 percent of children who suffer from this condition go on to develop asthma. A greater understanding of the link between the bacterial contents of an infant’s gut and bronchiolitis may lead to more insightful recommendations. The goal is to strike a balance between introducing healthy bacteria into an infant’s diet and using antibiotics to fight unhealthy bacteria.

The McDonnell Pediatric Cancer Center launches two new

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a challenging malignancy to treat in pediatric patients. Todd Druley, MD, PhD, pediatrics, will use next-generation sequencing technology to develop a new and more sensitive diagnostic test to identify surviving leukemia cells in chemotherapy-treated AML patients. He then will compare the new test’s performance with current methods, using samples provided by national and international collaborators.

If this study is successful, the next step will be to evaluate the new test on a larger scale in newly diagnosed leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy. If effective, the new test will improve the ability to assess how patients are responding and use the information to optimize treatment.

 Josh Rubin, MD, PhD; pediatrics; Albert Kim, MD, PhD, neurosurgery; Kristen Kroll, PhD, developmental biology; and Hiroko Yano, PhD, will test an innovative hypothesis that some brain tumors in children are associated not only with genetic changes in tumors, but also with what are called epigenetic changes. These are environmental changes that occur on the proteins that regulate how DNA works in tissue. This project uses the resources of the CDI-funded brain tumor tissue bank.

Results from this project could impact our understanding of what triggers the development of brain tumors and how best to treat them.

In the Congenital Heart Disease Center, two new projects are underway

Beth Kozel, MD, PhD, pediatrics; and Michael Shoykhet, MD, PhD, pediatrics, will join forces to uncover the link between vascular stiffness, blood flow to the brain and neurobehavioral deficits in patients with the condition Williams syndrome. With that knowledge, physicians who treat children with Williams syndrome, including Dr. Kozel, will be able to provide more specific clinical management.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a condition that decreases the heart’s ability to pump blood, is the most common reason for heart transplantation in children. Unfortunately, children with DCM suffer worse outcomes than adults with the condition and don’t respond to heart failure medications prescribed to adults.

In a study, which was published last year, adult cardiologist Kory Lavine, MD, PhD, medicine, found that blocking inflammatory white blood cells from an adult mouse’s heart muscle while allowing beneficial white blood cells, can improve heart function and promote cardiac recovery. With his CDI funding, Dr. Lavine will investigate if the same is true for young mice.

A new study shared by the CDI Congenital Heart Disease Center and the Center for Musculoskeletal and Metabolic Disease investigates Cantứ syndrome

Cant syndrome (CS), characterized by excess hair growth, a distinctive facial appearance, heart defects and skeletal abnormalities, is the focus of research proposed by Colin Nichols, PhD, cell biology and physiology. With his CDI funding, Dr. Nichols will establish the first multidisciplinary clinic for CS patients, where he and collaborators Kathy Grange, MD, pediatrics; and Beth Kozel, MD, PhD, pediatrics, will will test the hypothesize that a drug called sulfonylureas, used to treat congenital diabetes can be employed to treat CS.

If successful, this project could provide a clinical framework for improved diagnosis and care of these patients, and facilitate the evaluation of new treatment options.

New grants in the Center for Musculoskeletal and Metabolic Disease allow the study of food allergies and the role of intestinal microbes in infants and children

Rodney Newberry, MD, an adult gastroenterologist, teams up with Avraham Beigelman, MD, pediatrics; Phillip Tarr, MD, the Melvin E. Carnahan Professor of Pediatrics; and Barbara Warner, MD, pediatrics. Together, they will examine the development of food allergies and how they can be prevented. The researchers will look for environmental factors contributing to food allergies and develop recommendations for feeding babies, on when known food allergens should be introduced and if early introduction of antibiotics reduces the risk of food allergies.

Dr. Warner also is conducting a study aimed at gaining greater understanding of the infant microbiome, the collection of microbes that make up a young baby’s intestinal tract. Through a CDI-funded St. Louis twin study, Dr. Warner and Dr. Tarr, in collaboration with Jeffrey Gordon, MD, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor, have been collecting fecal samples from full-term twins to advance the understanding of how babies acquire microbial colonies in their guts and how the composition of those colonies affects their health. Their findings have been published more than a dozen times in such venerated publications as the The New York Times, Science and Nature.

In their new study, they will move their focus to pre-term infant twins to see if the patterns of intestinal microbial development can serve as a predictor for growth and development. New nutritional practices aimed at improving the health of these babies could result.

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