February 11, 2005

Birthday bash: First year brings host of research advances

Featured Image

James Crowe, M.D., left, and John Williams, M.D., look at chest X-rays of infants with the MPV infection. These images were used in their study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
photo by Dana Johnson

Birthday bash: First year brings host of research advances

Since the opening of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt last year physically combined the work spaces of physicians, staff and researchers, many high-profile research projects have begun or been completed.

The Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases has been working toward national recognition as a leader in the study of metapneumovirus (MPV). John V. Williams, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics, and James E. Crowe Jr., M.D., professor of Pediatrics, were able to use the Children's Hospital's unique childhood vaccine clinic to document the presence of MPV in large numbers of healthy children over the space of 30 years and to prove it was a leading cause of pneumonia and asthma-like conditions.

Another infectious disease study, lead by Natasha B. Halasa, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics, is underway to find out if babies can benefit from getting the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine at birth. Halasa and her mentor, Kathryn M. Edwards, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Clinical Research, have published research showing an increase in deaths of infants with pertussis, especially infants too young to have completed their routine vaccination series. Their new study is to find out if infants can be protected earlier in life by being vaccinated at birth.

Judy L. Aschner, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Neonatology, and William F. Walsh, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and Chief of Nurseries, have been busy with leading research, including a study of a head-cooling device on babies who experience oxygen deprivation during the birthing experience. The head-cooling device may be the first treatment shown to reduce the risk of cerebral palsy.

Neonatology researchers are working in tandem with critical care and cardiac researchers to test the drug Viagra as a way to help babies with a fatal condition called pulmonary hypertension. Early results are showing some babies with the condition can experience better control of the building blood pressure in their lungs when they are given Viagra. Another study at the Children's Hospital is looking at whether short term use of Viagra might prevent pulmonary hypertension from developing.

William O. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Pediatrics, found the “off label” use of antipsychotic medications had doubled in Tennessee children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Antipsychotic medications have not been proven to be either successful or safe when used to treat ADHD. Cooper is now looking to see if the problem exists nationwide.