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In Bench to Bedside: Finding Research Success in Setbacks

Published on April 5, 2016 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 1 year ago


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A new issue of Bench to Bedside, the monthly newsmagazine from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, is now available! This month’s issue includes several stories that show that, sometimes, it takes some setbacks to pave a new and unexpected path to success in research.

In this issue, we profile Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD, and his achievements with the Center for Applied Genomics (CAG) at CHOP. CAG’s success building the world’s largest pediatric genomics biobank has provided the basis for numerous major findings about the genomic underpinnings of both rare and common conditions, in the past decade.

What didn’t make it into the story is that Dr. Hakonarson had one of his earliest big successes in genomics research finding gene variants associated with asthma — right in line with his own clinical background as a pulmonologist. But major grant funding to pursue this research at full throttle never materialized. Instead, his proposals were funded to study the genomics of autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, cancer, and many other conditions — leading to CAG’s dramatic successes across many clinical areas he might not have explored if he had stayed in his own specialty. (Ongoing work is still building on the asthma findings, too.)

Another path to research success born from failure might just await immunologist Wayne Hancock, MBBS, PhD. Dr. Hancock has spent more than a decade seeking ways to strengthen the activity of certain cells in the immune system to prevent organ transplant rejection and to treat autoimmune disease. Over the years, when he accidentally weakened the activity of these cells in some experiments, he threw those failed results away. Until recently. Now, he has realized that decreasing the activity of these cells could lead to novel treatments for cancer. Our story profiles two new grants he received to pursue research into these opposite effects.

Finally, another lesson that failing to find what you seek is not the end of the road in research comes from a study of youth concussion led by Michael Nance, MD. A few years ago, Dr. Nance hoped to find whether a simple neurocognitive test in the emergency department could help triage which young people with mild traumatic brain injuries would go on to have worse outcomes. But he found that all of the youth with concussions performed badly in the immediate aftermath. Our story details his study, as well as the better solution already underway in the pediatric primary care network at CHOP: All young people with mild brain injuries should receive structured follow-up care, and typically a primary care setting is the best front line for that care.

Also in this issue, we bring you an overview of efforts to make CPR for children more personalized to improve survival; a story about serving families and caregivers through intergenerational services to support children; increasing HPV vaccination rates using pediatricians’ certification requirements; and more.

If you are involved with research at CHOP and have tips for future stories, contact Jennifer Long at longj [at] (longj[at]email[dot]chop[dot]edu). We love to hear from you!