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Quantifying Concussions, Vitamins for Mitochondrial Disease, Autism and Police Encounters, Using Smartphones, Doug Wallace

Published on January 26, 2018 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 6 months ago


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Smartphones, sports injury, and stories about science: This week in our Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia research roundup, 2018 is in full swing as our investigators made media headlines for their work to advance children’s health. Keep reading to learn about the different ways researchers at CHOP study the benefits and drawbacks of teens’ smartphone use, why research led by concussion experts at our Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) was featured in a recent article, and how experts in the Mitochondrial Medicine Frontier Program are weighing in on vitamins and supplements for mitochondrial disease.

Concussion Research Told Through the Eyes of a Student Athlete

The news site published an in-depth story about efforts led by CHOP to understand what goes on inside the brain of teen athletes with concussions. The article featured ongoing research led by Christina Master, MD, primary care sports medicine specialist, Kristy Arbogast, PhD, co-scientific director of CIRP, and Susan Margulies, PhD. In collaboration with Philadelphia’s The Shipley School, the research team is developing objective symptoms and measures of concussions by taking precise measurements of teen athletes’ brains when they sustain head injuries. The story follows the concussion evaluation of one Shipley School student after a soccer injury, and it describes the novel tools used by our scientists in their research, including an eye-tracking device, “force plates,” and infrared sensors.

In a Bench to Bedside story published in September, we talked to Dr. Arbogast about this important research and the more detailed proceedings of their investigation, including a novel initiative that uses a porcine animal model of traumatic brain injury informed by the head-impact sensor study at The Shipley School.

“We have to get past the current diagnostic approach of relying on subjective symptoms to be able to begin to understand the burden of these injuries long-term,” Dr. Arbogast said.

Be sure to check out the full story, and read our Bench to Bedside story.

Will Vitamins and Supplements Help Mito Patients? Our Experts Weigh In

The Mitochondrial Medicine Frontier Program at CHOP is a dynamic multi-disciplinary center led by the nation’s experts in mitochondrial disease. In a new analysis published in the Annual Review of Pathology: Mechanisms of Disease, Marni Falk, MD, executive director of the Mitochondrial Medicine Frontier Program and Zarazuela Zolkipli-Cunningham, MBChBD, MRCP, attending physician in the Mitochondrial Program, offered insight into the use of vitamins and supplements for patients with mitochondrial disease.

An inherited dysfunction in our body’s tiny cellular batteries, mitochondrial disease can affect multiple organs and systems of the body, which result in an array of unique symptoms and, often, the use of a variety of supplements and vitamins that haven’t been regulated, standardized, or proven. In the analysis, which represents the collaborative effort of co-authors from eight centers, Drs. Falk and Zolkipli-Cunningham called for systematic scientific studies in animals and cells that lay the foundation for clinical trials of nutritional interventions for mitochondrial patients.

“Our analysis made it clear how much more we need to learn about developing effective nutritional treatments for mitochondrial disease,” Dr. Zolkipli-Cunningham said. “There’s a large gap between the compounds that patients are routinely using and the degree to which those compounds have been scientifically tested.”

Read more about the analysis in the press release, and learn more about the novel efforts of the Mitochondrial Medicine Frontier Program on Bench to Bedside.

Researchers Study Interactions With Police for Children With Autism

Adolescents with autism who have serious psychiatric problems have greater chance of having an encounter with police than others on the autism spectrum, according to new research from David Mandell, ScD, associate director of the Center for Autism Research (CAR) at CHOP. The study was one of the first to look specifically at the link between hospital visits for psychiatric problems, police emergencies, and behavioral problems among individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The novel research was featured in a story on Spectrum, a website focused on autism research news.

“These are pretty common events that are affecting kids with autism,” Dr. Mandell told Spectrum. “We need to be concerned about the [problems] and how to stop them.”

Read the full Spectrum story, and learn more about the innovative ways that CAR researchers look to support children and teens with autism, including the use of virtual reality, on Cornerstone.

Navigating the Pros and Cons of Teens’ Smartphone Use

From texting to picture-tagging to Twitter, smartphones have become synonymous with staying connected in the digital age. But at CHOP, our investigators are continually searching for new ways to ensure smartphones are used safely, as well as to our children’s benefit. Patty Huang, MD, a senior fellow at CIRP, penned a new Research in Action blog that consults two CHOP experts who are conducting research into behavioral health. Jeremy Esposito, MD, MSEd, an attending physician in the Division of Emergency Medicine at CHOP, is investigating whether the inclusion of questions about smartphone use in the behavioral health screening process might help clinicians stay informed about their patients’ mental health histories and also connect suicidal teens or children with the right resources. Meanwhile, Nancy Kassam-Adams, PhD, associate director for Behavioral Research at CIRP, is leading the development of Coping Coach, an online game used on a smartphone or tablet that is designed to help ill or injured children ages 8 to 12 cope with post-traumatic stress.

Interested in learning more? Read Dr. Huang’s full blog post on the CIRP website. And read about early development of Coping Coach in a Bench to Bedside feature story.

Scientific American Features Dr. Wallace’s Portfolio of Work

Scientific American published a feature story on some of the big breakthroughs in mitochondrial research championed by our own Douglas Wallace, PhD, director of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine and the 2017 winner of the Dr. Paul Janssen Award. The article, titled “Defeating Diseases with Energy,” charts the timeline of our advances in knowledge about the role of mitochondria in the body, beginning with Dr. Wallace’s 1980 discovery that mitochondrial DNA changes over time by sequential mutations. This key finding set the stage for learning more about how different efficiencies in mitochondrial function — which vary from person to person — might make one individual more or less susceptible to disease than another. The article goes on to describe what Dr. Wallace and investigators at fellow institutions have discovered in the last few decades, including the hundreds of mitochondrial-DNA diseases identified by the early 2000s.

“Led by Wallace, scientists are now digger deeper into the role mitochondrial disease might play in many of our most pervasive diseases and even into aging itself,” states Renee Morad, the author of the article. “The idea is nothing short of a paradigm shift, viewing energy broadly rather than organs specifically. And if Wallace is right, that idea could change millions of lives for the better.”

Find the story online at Scientific American’s website.

Research Institute Web Survey: Help Us Improve Our Site!

We would like to extend a big thank you to everyone at CHOP and beyond who filled out our brief survey about how we can enhance the Research Institute’s external site  to best fit the needs of our users. We value your input, ideas, and opinions immensely! If you haven’t done so already, it’s not too late to weigh in: Please take a few minutes to answer the confidential survey online by visiting — and be sure to encourage your colleagues and friends to do so, as well!


Recently on Cornerstone, we sat down with James Guevara, MD, MPH, a founding member of PolicyLab at CHOP, to learn more about his exciting new study into a Facebook-based parent coaching program for new mothers with depressive symptoms. We also heard from Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD, scientific director and founder of CIRP, as she weighed in on a new study of childhood mortality rates.

Catch up on our headlines from our Jan. 12 edition of In the News:

  • Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment Celebrates 2018 Birth Defects Awareness Month
  • Dr. Diva De León-Crutchlow Awarded a ‘Million Dollar Bike Ride’ Grant
  • CHOP Named World Allergy Organization Center of Excellence
  • CHOP Thyroid and Dermatology Experts Featured on Medscape
  • New PolicyLab Video Heralds More Breakthroughs to Come

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