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APS Award, Exercise and Mitochondrial Disease, CHOP CVI, Driving Safety, Pandemic Stress

Published on April 29, 2022 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 4 months 4 weeks ago


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Social distancing in response to COVID-19


By Jillian Rose Lim

From a new institute focused on cardiovascular science to new findings in the fields of mitochondrial disease, mental health, and more, this week’s roundup of research news highlights how CHOP researchers continually expand the how’s and why’s of what we know in children’s health. Learn how exercise relates to patients with mitochondrial disease, read about the association between pandemic stress and mental health in Black individuals, explore the effects of behind-the-wheel training in novice drivers, and more.

Kathryn Hamilton, PhD

Kathryn Hamilton, PhD

Kathryn Hamilton, PhD, Receives APS New Investigator Award

Join us in congratulating our own Kathryn Hamilton, PhD, investigator in the Center for Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) at CHOP, for her receipt of the American Physiology Society’s (APS) New Investigator Award in the Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology Section. The New Investigator Award recognizes an outstanding investigator in the early stages of their career who have made commendable contributions to the field of gastroenterology, according to the APS. Dr. Hamilton received the award at the APS Experimental Biology Annual Meeting, held April 2 to 5 in Philadelphia.

Dr. Hamilton’s research at CHOP focuses on better understanding intestinal stem cell biology. In particular, her lab’s work centers on gastrointestinal epithelial stem cells, including what regulates their growth and survival, in response to stress, damage, or disease.

“As a member of the American Physiological Society GI and Liver Section since graduate school, it is a huge honor to now be recognized as their 2022 early-career investigator award recipient,” Dr. Hamilton said. “I am especially grateful to senior colleagues across the country who have supported my career development from afar and who nominated me for this prestigious award. It is a huge honor to be recognized for my scientific achievements as an independent investigator.”

Doug Wallace, PhD

Doug Wallace, PhD

Does Exercise Help Patients With Primary Mitochondrial Disease?

Endurance exercise is generally known to improve the function of mitochondria, the main source of energy production in our cells, but the benefits of exercise in patients with primary mitochondrial diseases, which are heterogeneous and caused by a variety of genetic mutations, were largely unknown.

In a new Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, CHOP researchers demonstrated the benefits of endurance exercise can vary based on the type of mutation involved in mitochondrial disease.

The researchers worked with animal models to study five mutations responsible for the disease. Their goal: to determine the relationship between mitochondrial mutations, endurance exercise response, and the underlying molecular pathways in these models with distinct mitochondrial mutations.

The findings showed that endurance exercise had different effects on the models depending on the mutation involved. Exercise improved response in the model with the mtDNA ND6 mutation in complex I. The model with a CO1 mutation affecting complex IV showed significantly fewer positive effects related to exercise, and the model with a ND5 complex 1 mutation did not respond to exercise at all. In the model that was deficient in nuclear DNA Ant1, endurance exercise worsened cardiomyopathy.

While the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks, the authors noted, the mitochondrial genetic status of patients should be taken into consideration when recommending exercise as therapy.

“This work is of fundamental importance in demonstrating that individuals with different mitochondrial bioenergetics will respond differently to endurance exercise,” said senior author Douglas Wallace, PhD, director of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine and the Michael and Charles Barnett Endowed Chair in Pediatric Mitochondrial Medicine and Metabolic Diseases. “This is of broad relevance to individuals ranging from athletes to patients with mitochondrial disease, and everyone in between.”

Go to CHOP News to learn more.

Elizabeth A. Walshe
Elizabeth Walshe, PhD

Safe Novice Drivers Start With Policy, Education, and Training

Can behind-the-wheel training, which is included in the comprehensive licensing requirements of 15 states, effectively reduce young driver crashes? The answer is yes: new drivers licensed before age 18 who are subject to mandatory driver education were less likely to crash than those licensed at age 18 who are exempt from these requirements, according to new research led by our Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP). The findings, published in JAMA Network Open, highlight the importance of comprehensive requirements for licensing in order to keep novice drivers safe.

For the prospective, population-based study, the researchers looked at 2018 licensing data in Ohio, a state that requires behind-the-wheel training in addition to Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) restrictions for drivers licensed before age 18, but not for drivers 18 and older. The team compared data from 136,643 license applicants between the ages of 16 and 24 with tracked licensed driver crash outcome data from up to one year after licensure for 129,897 of those drivers.

They found that drivers licensed at 18 (and exempt from licensing requirements) had the highest crash rates in the first year of licensure among all those licensed under the age of 25. Meanwhile, those licensed at 16 had 27 percent lower crash rates over the first two months of licensure compared to drivers licensed at 18.

“Unlike conventional thinking, this study shows that we should not assume that the youngest new drivers will have the highest crash rates,” said lead author Elizabeth Walshe, PhD, research scientist at CIRP. “With comprehensive licensing requirements, these younger drivers can perform better than older novice drivers who are exempt from these requirements. All novice drivers need the proper training that leads to developing the critical driving skills needed to avoid crashes.”

Learn more.

Wanjiku F.M. Njoroge
Wanjikũ F.M. Njoroge, MD

How Structural Racism and Pandemic Stressors Affect Mental Health Among Black Individuals

Researchers in The Intergenerational Exposome Program (IGNITE) of CHOP and Penn found that the combined effects of systemic and interpersonal racism layered on negative experiences within the COVID-19 pandemic were associated with depression and anxiety among Black people in the postpartum period, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

The researchers analyzed data from a longitudinal study related to the pandemic and perinatal health, looking at a total of 151 Black patients to understand how multiple forms of racism affected their mental health postpartum. These participants answered questions about their COVID-19 experiences, interpersonal racism, and mental health. Almost all participants expressed at least one significant pregnancy-related COVID-19 worry, while a large majority reported at least one moderate concern related to delivery and the postpartum period. Twenty-nine percent of participants screened positive for postpartum depression.

In addition, worse experiences during the pandemic, reports of interpersonal racism, and living in an area of greater historical redlining were uniquely associated with postpartum depression.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the Black community, in large part due to structural racism and its impact on the social determinants of health, and our study shows this impact extended to the effects on the postpartum period,” said the study’s first author Wanjikũ F.M. Njoroge, MD, psychiatrist in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and PolicyLab faculty member. “Not only does this research point to an urgent need for policies that address the pandemic’s mental health effects on Black pregnant people, but it also highlights the need to follow the babies and toddlers of these people through early childhood to understand any potential impacts on their development and intervene where necessary.”

Learn more.

RI Launches New CHOP Cardiovascular Institute

A new CHOP Cardiovascular Institute (CHOP CVI) is deepening CHOP Research Institute’s commitment to pediatric cardiovascular research by driving scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs that will improve cardiovascular care for children. Launched in April, the CHOP CVI will be led by Daniel P. Kelly, MD, current director of the Penn Cardiovascular Institute (Penn CVI).

“CHOP has a longstanding history of providing superlative pediatric cardiac care, and under Dr. Kelly’s leadership, the CHOP Cardiovascular Institute will raise that standard of care even higher,” said Susan L. Furth, MD, PhD, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at CHOP Research Institute. “We are so pleased to have him join us to lead this new undertaking.”

Dr. Kelly will develop novel research programs, recruit faculty, mentor faculty and fellows in the CHOP CVI, as well as create partnerships with existing Penn CVI programs. While also continuing his role at Penn, Dr. Kelly will hold the inaugural CHOP Presidential Chair, have a secondary appointment as a professor of Pediatrics, and be a member of the CHOP leadership group administering Cardiac Center pilot grants and awards.

“It is a privilege to lead this new institute, which will bring together top researchers from Penn and CHOP to solve some of pediatric cardiology’s greatest challenges,” said Dr. Kelly in a press release.

Learn more.


Catch up on our headlines from our April 15 In the News:

· Penn-CHOP-Wistar Vaccine Symposium Highlights Rich History of Vaccine Innovation

· And the 2022 Best Pediatrics Program in the United States Goes to …

· Significant Drop in Opioid Scripts for Pediatric Patients After Surgical Procedures

· Two CHOP Docs Receive Prestigious Biomedical Research Award

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