Boston Children’s research in the news

image: flickr /christopher.woo

Boston Children’s Hospital made the headlines this week, when major news outlets across the globe reported on new studies from many of our researchers.

We’re well known for our world-class care and innovative approach to pediatrics, but did you know we also have a long, distinguished tradition in clinical research? And on more than one occasion that research has advanced not just pediatric care, but all of medicine.

Here’s a quick recap of some of our recent research coverage:

David Ludwig, MD, PhD

Researchers Cara Ebbeling, PhD, and David Ludwig, MD, PhD, of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospitalthis week published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggesting that all calories aren’t created equal. The study looked at three diets (low-fat, low-carb and low-glycemic) in order to see which helped participants keep pounds off after losing weight. Even though all three diets consisted of the same amount of calories, the low-glycemic diet came out on top.

ABC News, CBS This Morning, Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Bloomberg News, The Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, Time’s “Healthland” blog, HealthDay News, MSNBC, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Boston Business Journal and WebMD all reported on the study.

All the stories were interesting, but my favorite news report on the findings came from study participant Michael Rogers, a research scientist at Boston Children’s. Rogers spoke to The Los Angeles Times about his experience trying all three diets:

“The JAMA study kept dieters honest by providing all of their meals and hospitalizing them for several days to take needed measurements. Michael Rogers, a research scientist at Children’s Hospital in Boston who was one of the participants in the experiment, lost around 40 pounds during the study — and, by following the lessons he learned through the process, has kept the weight off. But even he found the process challenging at times, he said.

First, there was the hurdle of getting started. Rogers saw a flier seeking subjects for the study months before he got in touch with the scientists running the study, he said.  The screening process was rigorous too, involving poking and prodding, and extensive interviews intended “to make sure you’ll be a good guinea pig.”

Then there was the food itself. Monday through Friday, Rogers reported to the study site, which was up the street from his own laboratory, to eat lunch and pick up a bag containing his dinner, a snack for the evening and breakfast for the next morning. Weekend meals were provided in bags distributed on Thursdays and Fridays.

“Sometimes the food was pretty good, and sometimes it was awful,” he said. It took a while to get used to how little salt was in the prepared food — the researchers kept sodium to a minimum to make sure dieters’ weight loss didn’t come only from shedding retained water.

Read the whole story.

If you or your family is interested in joining a research study run by the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital, please see this list of current studies looking for participants.  

EEG testing at Boston Children's

Autism is a difficult condition to diagnose because it has such a wide range of symptoms, many of which aren’t recognizable until a child is a toddler. If there were a way to screen for autism in very young children, doctors, parents and children would all benefit from early detection and early treatment. Thanks to research being done by Boston Children’s doctors, early identification of the condition could one day be a reality.

Frank Duffy, MD

A study published by Frank Duffy, MD, and Heidelise Als, PhD, which used electroencephalography (EEG) scans to study the brains of children with autism, had very promising results. Their research found over 40 consistent measurements in the brains of children with autism when compared with brain scans of children not on the spectrum, which could indicate that children with certain brain patterns are more likely to have autism and can therefore be watched closely by medical professionals as they grow. Duffy tells WBUR’s Common Health blog that he hopes the EEG will become a new tool in diagnosing and monitoring autism, as it is far easier to use on children than other scanning methods like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), that require children to stay very still for long stretches of time, making them practically unusable in many cases.

Charles Nelson, PhD, research director of Boston Children’s Division of Developmental Medicine, has also been using EEG scans to study infants that are at high risk of developing autism. In a study published last week, he and his colleagues found that the EEG scans of children who are considered to be at high risk for developing autism had fewer brainwave patterns during a series of activities.

If you or your family would be interested in participating in this type of study, please see this list of Developmental Medicine studies currently looking for participants.

TIME, CBS News, Fox News, London Free Press, Toronto Sun, Boston Magazine, WebMD and Medical News Today all covered this emerging research on early detection of autism.

John Khier, MD

In yet another study, John Kheir, MD, in our Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, led a team that created a method for delivering oxygen when patients can’t breathe — using tiny particles filled with oxygen gas, mixed with liquid and injected directly into the blood. In an emergency, the injections could buy clinicians time to start life-saving therapies. The technology was reported by The Atlantic, Popular Science, Scientific American, Technology Review and other outlets, and Kheir recounts how the devastating death of a 9-month-old girl spurred his work in our science and innovation blog, Vector.

The work being done in Boston Children’s research labs is important, but it takes more than perseverance and patience from doctors; it takes study participants.

Would you or your family be interested in helping our doctors make the next big medical breakthrough? If so please see this list of Boston Children’s research trials currently looking for participants.