Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) is a pioneering organization in pediatric health care, as well as ranked one of the top five pediatric hospitals (US News & World Report), as well as one of the Best Managed (Wall Street Journal, Deliotte). Despite the many difficulties presented by COVID to the medical community during the early stages of the pandemic, CHLA has managed to continue its dedication to pediatric health care, innovative technologies, and groundbreaking research. The Friese Foundation is proud to be part of the CHLA philanthropic community.
The First Physiologically Accurate In-vitro Model of the Human Kidney Glomerulus
Conditions such as chronic kidney disease are characterized by a reduced ability to filter blood and remove toxins from the body. Treatment of CKD requires an understanding of the progression of the disease, which scientists have not been able to accurately model – until now.
CHLA Scientists at the GOFARR Laboratory for Organ Regenerative developed the first physiologically accurate in-vitro model of the human kidney glomerulus, which performs as the organ’s filtration system.
Their model provides a more accurate way to study the way kidney disease affects patients. Because it behaves like a biologically correct glomerulus, scientists are able to understand the way in which it can be injured and better understand ways to prevent damage. The landmark findings were published in Nature Communications in a 2019 paper co-authored by Dr. Perin and Stefani Da Sacco, PhD.
Tending to babies’ mental well-being
Research conducted by CHLA psychologists has shown that caring for babies’ mental health can lay crucial foundational work for social, emotional, and cognitive development. This work scientifically demonstrates that mental health isn’t just a concern for adults and older children: babies, especially those hospitalized in intensive care, also benefit developmentally from having their mental health addressed, especially during the first weeks or months of life.
The relevance of this research impacts the way in which health work in neonatal intensive care units is currently administered. Currently, much of the mental health work in these areas focus on the mental health of the parent, while the physical development of the infant is prioritized. This research shows that it would be beneficial to promote the relationship between babies and their parents, and the mental wellbeing of both.
Anticipating the COVID Pandemic and Adapting Patient Care
The physicians and researchers at CHLA were prepared to meet the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. In 2020, the hospital launched a COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which helped pay for crucial safety measures like testing, personal protective equipment, and health screenings.
A month before the pandemic was officially declared in the United States, Jennifer Dien Bard, PhD (Director of Clinical Microbiology and Virology), Dr. Alexander Judkins (Head of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Dr. Maurice O’Gorman (Chief of Laboratory Medicine) developed a plan for COVID testing at CHLA, and for acquiring testing kits to ensure they would have enough during the shortage.
Within days of the pandemic declaration in March 2020, the hospital published COVID materials online in eight different languages. CHLA quickly became one of healthcare’s most trusted sources regarding the potential inflammatory effects of COVID in children, releasing CHLA research including:
- A study of the safety and efficacy of treating children with available therapeutics
- Studies of the different effects of COVID based on age, ethnicity, and location
- Analysis of postmortem blood samples, which were used to identify the earliest presence of COVID-19 and estimate a timeline of infection
Study Reveals Transmission Patterns of COVID Virus
In a peer-reviewed study, CHLA scientists demonstrated that early travel restrictions and other measures taken at the beginning of the pandemic were successful in controlling the spread of the virus.
The coronavirus mutates as it spreads, which makes it possible to track the unique versions of the virus. In February, Dr. Dien Bard began the research necessary for this study, to develop the tools to understand the transmission pattern and better inform how to confront the disease. After the genomic test was developed, Dr. Gai and Dr. Dien Bard and Lishuang Shen turned to the global scientific community and accessed sequence data from over 6,000 US samples, identifying hundreds of COVID haplotypes.
Clear patterns emerged from the data demonstrating that safer-at-home measures were effective in reducing the spread of COVID, especially by preventing inter-state transmission. The states where the earliest COVID cases were reported (Washington and California) and early safer-at-home orders were implemented had the most haplotypes unique to their state, implying that the individual haplotypes developing in those states remained local and did not spread to other states.