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DCRI celebrates 3 years of accomplishments

For a few special days last month, the halls of the Darby Children’s Research Institute (DCRI) were lively with discussions, explanations and thought-provoking conversations as investigators gathered to present nearly 100 abstracts featured in the institute’s third anniversary celebration.
Collaborations that criss-cross the entire MUSC campus were evident in the 97 posters on display on Feb. 28. The event highlighted the accomplishments, discoveries and strides made in children’s health research during the past year.
Studies presented in the posters provoked questions, incited friendly debate and encouraged opinions from researchers, clinicians, the media, visitors and attendees from across MUSC.
The event marked the year’s culmination of the coming together of minds across traditional boundaries.  

“Should everyone be taking N-acetyl cysteine?” asked Dr. Bill Mobley of Inderjit Singh, Ph.D., prompted by the results reported in Singh’s study, “Modulation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-a activity by N-acetyl cysteine attenuates inhibition of oligodenrocyte development in lipopolysaccharide stimulated mixed glial cultures.”
This study laid the groundwork for a further study, noted below, that Singh did in collaboration with Doe Jenkins, M.D., to show that an existing drug, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), protects the developing brain of unborn babies.
A noted pediatric neurologist at Stanford University and the featured guest speaker at the anniversary event, Mobley enjoyed an informal tour of the posters displayed on the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the DCRI.
“This shows that the DCRI is able to provide the kinds of resources necessary for great collaborations to turn great science into great medicine,” he noted.  ”And that’s what it’s all about—finding a brand new way of thinking.”
He pointed to a nearby poster he’d been discussing with investigator Srinivasan Shanmugarajan: “Congenital bone fractures in spinal muscular atrophy.”
“This work shows that the gene responsible for spinal muscular atrophy is also causing abnormal bone cell formation,” explained Mobley. “I didn’t know that.”
Down the hall, child psychiatrist Eve Spratt, M.D., noted the special interest that her study, “Behavior problems and parenting stress in young children with history of inconsistent early care giving,” might have for  Charles Darby, M.D., who recently welcomed into his family a grandchild adopted from Russia. The sample in the small pilot study included 15 children adopted from orphanages in Russia, and indicated that children adopted from international orphanages exhibit fewer behavior problems than US-born children with a history of neglect.
Also among the abstracts were those that looked at ways to prevent births to teen mothers, determined whether patient-held vaccination records improved vaccination rates, and showed that maternal milk protects against necrotizing enterocolitis in extremely preterm infants.
The study, “Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy: at epidemic proportions in S.C.,” tested 694 women for vitamin D deficiency at two sites in S.C. Of that sample, 74 percent of black women, 32 percent of Hispanic women, 50 percent of Asian women and 13 percent of Caucasian women were vitamin D deficient.
Using cultured tumor cells and animal models in their research for “Targeting hyaluronan interactions in brain and spinal cord tumors,” investigators tested the efficacy of a new treatment for brain and spinal cancer that was shown to target particularly hard-to-kill cancer cells. Tumors reduced in size and became incapacitated. By stopping the cells’ malignant behaviors, the treatment was shown to have an effect on the multiple components needed for tumor growth. The technology has been patented and licensed to Halozyme Therapeutics Inc., for clinical production.
“Dysfunction exacerbates cerebral white matter injury: attenuation by N-acetyl cysteine” showed that NAC seems to protect the developing brain of unborn babies. This study could have further implications in clinical trials with mothers whose children are at risk for developing cerebral palsy.
Editor’s note: The following information is from the March issue of the Children’s Hospital newsletter, Kids Connection.

Friday, March 21, 2008
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