Some innovators, Naomi Fried, PhD, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, says, can end up alone on an island and make something out of just sand and water. But a lot of other innovators could benefit from getting help. In her role as lead of Boston Children’s Innovation Acceleration Program, Fried and her team help established and potential innovators alike connect with that help: navigating vendor/manufacturer contracts, accessing specialists like designers and coders, and raising funding. “You can’t have an innovative organization unless you have a plan and a structure for that.”
Imagine you’re a clinician or researcher and you want to find the source of a newborn’s seizures. Imagine being able to record, in real time, the neural activity in his brain and to overlay that information directly onto an MRI scan of his brain. When an abnormal electrical discharge triggered a seizure, you’d be able to see exactly where in the brain it originated.
For years, that kind of thinking has been the domain of dreams. Little is known about infant brains, largely because sophisticated neuroimaging technology simply hasn’t been designed with infants in mind. Boston Children’s Hospital’s Ellen Grant, MD, and Yoshio Okada, PhD, are debuting a new magnetoencephalography (MEG) system designed to turn those dreams into reality.
In parts of the developing world, especially remote, rural areas, it’s not unusual for people with diabetes to ignore their symptoms until they’ve collapsed and need immediate care. By the time they see a doctor, their blood sugar levels might be so high as to cause diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), where the body starts breaking down fats and proteins, turning their blood acidic and leaving them extremely dehydrated.
For many, it won’t be the first such episode. But for some, it can be the last.
Stories like this are increasingly common across large swaths of the developing world—as Diane Stafford, MD, an endocrinologist from Boston Children’s Hospital, discovered when she traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, through the Human Resources for Health program.
Our ability to use the thumb as an opposable digit is a critical part of what sets us apart as a species. “That’s how you’re holding a pen,” Leia Stirling, PhD, a senior staff engineer at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering told me recently as we talked about the Wyss’ latest collaboration with Boston Children’s Hospital. “That’s how you hold your phone; that’s how you open a door; that’s what makes us unique.”
It’s also an ability that children who have suffered a stroke or have cerebral palsy or hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body) can lose or fail to develop in the first place.
Stirling, along with Hani Sallum, MS, and Annette Correia, OT, in Boston Children’s departments of Physical and Occupational Therapy, are the architects of a robotic device that may improve functional hand use. The device assists children with muscle movements, using small motors called “actuators” placed over the hand joints, while giving them sensory and visual feedback. It’s called the Isolated Orthosis for Thumb Actuation, or IOTA.
Fifty years after Boston Children’s Hospital faculty developed a vaccine against measles, the United Kingdom is seeing a surge of cases. Last year, it tracked a record 2,000 measles diagnoses—unusual for a country that used to average only a dozen cases every year. With 1,200 cases reported this year so far, that record could be broken.
The cases are the legacy of parents who decided to forgo vaccinating at least 1 million children against measles, based on a 1998 study in The Lancet linking the measles vaccine to autism. That now-retracted study became the origin of its own epidemic, carrying misinformation through a network of parents and media outlets that believed the author had discovered the cause of autism.
Until recently, tracking the spread of vaccine-related rumors was even more difficult than tracking the outbreaks such misinformation engenders. A study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, involving Boston Children’s Hospital’s HealthMap data collection system and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has taken a huge step toward turning that around.
Ask a group of 15-year-olds what’s on their minds, and you’ll likely hear something along the lines of video games, parties and maybe homework. Ask Adrian Haber, a sophomore at Boston Latin School, and you’ll hear something surprising: nanoparticles and bladder spasms.
Under the mentorship of urologist Hiep Nguyen, MD, at Boston Children’s Hospital, Haber has pioneered a new drug delivery system for bladder spasm medication. Nguyen believes Haber’s work has laid the groundwork for what may become a safer, more effective alternative to existing drug therapies.
The student and doctor began their partnership in November 2012; Haber, already a veteran of the Boston Regional Science Fair, was looking for a new project—one that would combine his interests in physics and biology. His mother Constance Houck, MD, an anesthesiologist at Boston Children’s, knew just the person to ask. And Nguyen had a problem that was long overdue for a solution.
In the United States, we rarely worry about newborn babies getting dangerously cold, but in poorer countries the basic provision of warmth can be extremely challenging. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) considers newborn thermal care a critical part of neonatal care, hypothermia remains a leading cause of sickness and death globally.
Even in places with warm climates such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, babies can quickly lose heat, and how hypothermia in newborns is treated reveals a dramatic contrast with the developed world.
The playing field may soon get more level, thanks to a device Boston Children’s Hospital’s Anne Hansen, MD, MPH, has been developing with collaborators at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technology (LIGTT) since visiting Rwanda in 2010. That device is a warming pad that can keep a newborn warm for hours at a time with no electricity, and which can be used in a home, clinic, hospital or transport setting.