Stories about: Research

How mitochondrial transplantation saved Avery’s life

Avery Gagnon looks into the camera. She received mitochondrial transplantation to help her heart regain its energy.Today, 2 1/2 year-old Avery Gagnon looks perfectly healthy and happy.

But Avery is only alive today because of a revolutionary therapy called mitochondrial transplantation that used her own mitochondria — small structures in our cells that act as the “batteries” powering our organs — to boost her heart’s energy.

Mitochondrial transplantation comes to the rescue of hearts suffering from ischemia, a condition of reduced blood flow that damages mitochondria. As a result of its energy-sapping effects, ischemia is especially dangerous for the frailest cardiac patients: infants with congenital heart disease like Avery.

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Surgeon advocates to increase split liver procedures to save children on the transplant waiting list

Every year, dozens of infants and small children in need of a liver transplant die waiting for a donor organ to become available. But it’s not usually a lack of donor organs (grafts) that prevents doctors from saving these children—it’s a lack of organs small enough to fit in their bodies.

“Infants and young children waiting for a new liver are at the greatest risk of dying on the organ waiting list, mainly due to a shortage of appropriately sized organs for them,” says Heung Bae Kim, MD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Transplant Center. “It’s a troubling statistic, but there are things that can be done to change that.”

The change Kim is referring to would alter current donor organ allocation policies to make more livers available for a special surgical technique called split liver transplantation. Split liver transplantation occurs when a donated adult liver is carefully segmented into two unequally sized portions—the larger segment is given to an adult patient and the smaller portion to a child—saving two people from a single organ.

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Giving children a heart valve that can grow with them

Allie Duhe

When her twins were born, everything seemed to be going according to plan for Emily Duhe. “My husband and I wanted lots of kids, and we were so happy to start a big family,” she recalls.

Within a couple of months, though, it was clear that one of the twins, Allie, was in trouble. “We brought her to the hospital thinking she had pneumonia,” Emily says.

“That’s when they found multiple defects in her heart.”

Logan Narolis

It’s a familiar story. Margaret Narolis’ son Logan was also born with a major heart defect. “When Logan was born we were told he’d need to have multiple surgeries to reconstruct his heart,” she says.

The two families, separated by thousands of miles—the Duhes live in Louisiana, the Narolises in upstate New York—both came to Boston Children’s Hospital looking for better treatment options for their children’s damaged hearts.

Fortunately, they found what they were looking for.

Logan and Allie are now part of a small group whose hearts are beating with the help of a new expandable replacement valve—one that essentially can be made to grow as they do.

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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.

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