Outdoor sports, biking, and bustling streets might be welcome signs of warmer weather and longer days, but they’re also research topics studied rigorously by investigators at our Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) in their quest to ensure safer environments for children and families. In this week’s roundup of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia research headlines, learn about a new study from CIRP into the various causes and mechanisms of youth concussions beyond contact sports, discover cool technology that allows scientists to study how cyclists move and make decisions on urban streets, and find out how the CIRP driving simulator is helping to advance what we know of teen driving behaviors. On top of that, we congratulate the Cancer Center’s Dr. David Barrett on a new award from Stand Up to Cancer and offer big congratulations to our Department of Pediatrics’ continued success!
Pediatrics Department Ranks First in the Nation
Topping off a week packed with good news, we were thrilled to share that U.S. News and World Report has awarded the Pediatrics Department at CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine first place in the nation for the sixth year in a row, tied with Harvard University. We are incredibly proud of the faculty, trainees, and staff who make up our amazing pediatrics program! Learn more about the honor in our blog post.
David Barrett Receives SU2C Innovation in Collaboration Award
At CHOP, we believe collaboration drives breakthroughs, especially when it comes to fighting childhood cancer. We are excited to congratulate David Barrett, MD, PhD, oncologist in the Cancer Center at CHOP, who received a 2018 Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award together with his collaborator, Trevor Pugh, PhD, a scientist at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Center. SU2C granted a total of $1.25 million to five partner teams in order to help scientists conducting cancer research collaborate more easily across institutional and national lines on novel research projects. Each team is made up of members already working within the SU2C research community and will receive $250,000.
The SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee placed particular emphasis on choosing projects that involve SU2C researchers who had not worked together in the past, according to a SU2C press release. Dr. Pugh is a principal investigator on the SU2C Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team, while our own Dr. Barrett is on the SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team and received a 2017 SU2C Innovative Research Grant for his work on precision immunotherapy medicine. The team’s award included $125,000 in funding from the Emily Whitehead Foundation.
Learn more about the Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award in the press release.
Research Into CAR T-Cell Dysfunction to be Presented at AACR
Along with the new SU2C grant, Dr. Barrett had another headline this week in the news: At the upcoming 2018 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting being held April 14 to 18, Dr. Barrett will present novel research into chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell dysfunction. “We treated a number of children between 2012 and 2014, and one of the things that became very clear was that it was quite challenging to make an effective CAR T-cell product,” said Dr. Barrett in an Oncology Nursing News article ahead of the AACR meeting. Dr. Barrett and his team wanted to determine why some children have poor quality T-cells, and what qualities make for a T-cell suitable for CAR manufacture. In order to be treated with the immunotherapy and develop strong CAR T-cells that have the energy to reproduce and fight cancer cells, a patient’s T-cells must first be healthy enough to survive processing in the lab. Among other conclusions from their study, Dr. Barrett’s team found that solid tumors, such as Ewing Sarcoma and osteosarcoma, were especially likely to produce T cells with poor potential.
Learn more in a preview from Oncology Nursing News.
CIRP Researchers Study Teen Driving and ADHD Symptoms
Research shows that teen drivers are three times more likely to suffer a fatal crash than more-experienced, older drivers. At the same time, around 20 percent of the same age group are reportedly affected by symptoms of mental health disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Catherine McDonald, PhD, RN, a senior fellow at our CIRP and assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Health at Penn Nursing, studies the various distractions that new drivers experience on the road.
In new research published in the journal Nursing Research, she particularly wanted to know whether a relationship exists between teen driving behaviors and self-reported symptoms of ADHD or other mental health disorders. With colleagues at Penn Medicine, CHOP, and Utah State University, Dr. McDonald analyzed data from 60 teens who completed a simulated driving assessment as well as questionnaires. The survey contained questions about depressive symptoms, driving behavior, and various symptoms of ADHD, such as whether the driver had trouble keeping their mind focused on what people say. In conclusion, Dr. McDonald and her fellow researchers found that the more inattention symptoms a teen reported, the more mistakes they made in the driving simulator.
“Inattention was associated with more errors in the simulator, and self-reported symptoms of hyperactivity and conduct disorder were related to more self-reported risky driving behaviors,” stated Dr. McDonald in a press release. “This presents an opportunity to help intervene with patients and their families, to talk about the child’s whole health and mental well-being and how it might relate to driving behaviors.”
Learn more at Penn Today.
CHOP and Penn Enlist Novel Goggles to Study Bike Safety
Making our streets safer has become a top priority for injury researchers at CHOP and Penn, with data showing Philadelphians were involved in 750 crashes between 2011 and 2016 — killing 20 cyclists and injuring hundreds of pedestrians. Megan Ryerson, PhD, a CIRP senior fellow, assistant professor of city and regional planning at PennDesign, and research director of the Mobility 21 transportation research center, is leading a new and uniquely creative project that seeks to improve those numbers by documenting the crashes and near-crashes that happen every day. The project enlists the help of eye-tracking glasses, worn by volunteer urban bikers, in order to study their movements along Philadelphia’s bike lanes. The goggles have inward and outward-facing cameras that can measure head movement, pupil dilation, the direction of their gaze at any given time, and how long they looked that way. According to Dr. Ryerson, data gleaned from these studies may help to design safer streets for both bikers and pedestrians.
“Cyclists — and I’m a cyclist — know protected bike lanes are safer, but why?” Dr. Ryerson told Penn Today. “The only metric we as planners have now about safety is crashes. Imagine being able to analyze intersections or roadways, for example, by how much stress and uncertainty they create for cyclists and correlate that with crashes. It gets us much more nuanced data about our urban infrastructure.”
Dr. Ryerson’s data from Fall 2017 provided numerous takeaways, including the fact that bikers spent a lot of their time looking down or to the right (to watch for potholes and car traffic), but in University City, signs often require cyclists to look up and to the left.
Flaura Winston, MD, PhD, founder and scientific director of CIRP, who is involved in the committee that helped to fund Dr. Ryerson’s research, commented: “What’s so cool about this is there’s no place else we can think of, except for Penn, that can be such a great place for studying this. It brings together the School of Design, the Medical School, Engineering, CHOP — all within a couple blocks with very complicated roads, bikes, trains, a highway, pedestrian crosswalks. All these great things are here where we can study and not just understand, but also make Philadelphia safer.”
Want to learn more about Dr. Ryerson’s novel research? Check out full coverage at Penn Today.
Youth Concussions Result From A Variety of Activities, Beyond Contact Sports
While contact sports like football have dominated headlines for their role in youth concussions, new research from CHOP and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that a broad range of activities — including those that children engage in daily — can also result in concussions. In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers report that while 70 percent of concussions diagnosed at CHOP were related to sports and recreational activity, only 40 percent of that number were attributed to contact sports (such as football, soccer, or ice hockey), while the rest occurred in recreational activities (like gym class, recess, or the playground), and limited or non-contact sports (like cheerleading, baseball, bike riding, and more). Meanwhile, 30 percent were due to activities that were neither sports or recreational activities, like falls, motor vehicle crashes, and intentional assault. On top of that, injury mechanisms vary by a child’s age, with sports and recreation becoming the primary source of concussions starting at age 6.
“Clinicians and school-based personnel need to be aware of the fact that concussions also happen in life and not just sports and must also have the appropriate index of suspicion for diagnosing these injuries.” stated Christina Master, MD, senior author of the study and primary care sports medicine specialist at CHOP, in a press release.
Learn more in the press release.
Recently on Cornerstone, we shared a guest blog about the Violence Prevention Initiative from Drs. Stephen Leff and Joel Fein; met our newest Research Hero family, the Readmans, who support single ventricle heart defect research at the CHOP Cardiac Center; took a snapshot of novel research into broad vs. narrow-spectrum antibiotics, and announced exciting news about our Pediatrics Department’s first-place ranking from U.S. News & World Report.
Catch up on our headlines from our March 23 edition of In the News:>
- Babies Fed Soy-Based Formula Show Reproductive Tissue Changes
- Do Differences in Bone Strength Have Genetic Roots?
- CHOP Researchers Discover Missing Mutation in Severe Infant Epilepsy
- Intravenous Arginine Benefits Mitochondrial Patients Who Suffer Metabolic Stroke
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