Research Center News

Appointments and Promotions

Christopher Payne 

Payne joins Human Molecular Genetics Program

Christopher Payne, PhD has joined the Human Molecular Genetics Program of Children's Memorial Research Center as Assistant professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, effective October 1, 2009. Payne was previously a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Robert E. Braun, PhD at the Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME. Payne’s research focuses on the identification of the male germline stem cell niche. He earned his PhD from the Oregon Health and Science University’s Program in Cell and Developmental Biology. Payne currently holds a prestigious NIH Pathway to Independence Award. The research center is indebted to the Medical Research Institute Council (MRIC) for its funding of this faculty position and continuing support of the center’s research mission and commitment to excellence.

 Alice Archabal

Archabal named official liaison to Children’s Memorial Research Center

June 25, 2009 — Alice Archabal, Sr. Vice President, Development and Chief Operating Officer of Children’s Memorial Foundation, has been named by Patrick Magoon as official liaison to the research center. In this capacity, Archabal will work closely with Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, President and Scientific Director of the research center, to identify key sources of philanthropy for research programs; and to disseminate information and raise awareness of research center activities. Archabal, a graduate of Ripon College in Wisconsin, joined Children’s Memorial Hospital in 2008. She previously served as chief development officer for Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest - The Nation’s Food Bank Network) in Chicago, and as senior director of field operations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Ms. Archabal and benefit from her creative ideas and strategic fund raising experience”, said Dr. Hendrix.

 Deli Wang

New director of Biostatistics Research Core

Deli Wang, MD, PhD will join Children’s Memorial Hospital and the Feinberg School as the first Director of the Children’s Memorial Research Center Biostatistics Research Core. Pending approval of his faculty appointment by Northwestern University, he will join the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences as an Assistant professor beginning in August 2009. Wang currently serves as Co-Director of the Biostatistics Core for Morehouse School of Medicine/Tuskegee University/UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Partnership grant.

 Jhumku Kohtz

Kohtz appointed Director of CMRC Research Technologies

Jhumku Kohtz, PhD, has been appointed Director of CMRC Research Technologies, a new leadership position for the research center. In this post, Kohtz will coordinate all shared facilities of the research center, establish or restructure user groups, and form an oversight committee. She will also coordinate and plan services with the Director of Core Facilities, part of the Office of the Vice President for Research at Northwestern University. Kohtz is a member of the Department of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the Developmental Biology Program of the research center.


Ma joins Neurobiology Program

The research center is pleased to announce the recruitment of Yong-Chao Ma, PhD, to the Neurobiology Program as assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School. At the research center, Ma plans to define the mechanisms involved in the formation of dopamine neurons. This research will be relevant to neurological disorders in which the neurotransmitter dopamine is important, such as Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, addiction, schizophrenia, depression and some forms of dementia. He hopes to generate a genome-wide picture of transcription factors involved in the development of dopamine neurons and to define their interactions. Ma will also apply his findings to the differentiation of stem cells into defined types of neurons, which will be an exciting contribution to the field of regenerative medicine. Ma joined the research center in September 2008.

Laurie joins Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program

Nikia Laurie, PhD, joined the Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program of the research center in September 2008 as assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School. She comes from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Laurie’s research has focused on elucidating the sequential genetic changes contributing to retinoblastoma progression, with important results. Her work will seek to further define molecular, cellular and genetic changes associated with tumor invasion and metastasis, to help identify novel targets for more effective chemotherapy for various types of cancer.


Pramanik joins Hendrix laboratory

Rocky Pramanik, PhD, is a newly appointed senior research scientist in the laboratory of Mary J.C. Hendrix of the Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program. Pramanik was a research scientist for Litholink Corporation, a subsidiary of LabCorp, in Chicago. In the Hendrix laboratory, he will focus on developing novel biomarker assays to detect the presence of specific cancer-related antigens in the sera of patients with cancer. The findings will help in the diagnosis, therapy and prognosis of cancer.

Sullivan joins Clinical and Translational Research Program

Children's Memorial Research Center is pleased to welcome Christine Sullivan, MBA, MS, to the Clinical and Translational Research Program as Statistician. Sullivan's responsibilities will include study data analysis, study planning assistance, statistical analysis planning, spreadsheet and database design assistance for data capture, and other biostatistical responsibilities. A five-year veteran of Children's Memorial Hospital, Sullivan served as Statistician for Biostatistical Research and Consulting at the Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program, and worked on the Food Allergy Project, Inc. with Xiaobin Wang, MD, MPH, ScD, director of the Program. Recruitment of a director for the newly formed Biostatistical Consulting Core within the Clinical and Translational Research Program is under way. Sullivan currently reports to Ram Yogev, MD, director of the Program. To contact Christine Sullivan: [email protected] or 773.755.6588. Her office is located in the Administrative Suite on the first floor of the research center.

Miller appointed to clinical and translational research post

Michael L. Miller, MD, director of Clinical Services, Division of Immunology/Rheumatology at Children’s Memorial and associate professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School, will serve as the Chief Advisor for Clinical and Translational Research Applications for the research center. Read more.

Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, named to NIH Council of Councils

March 24, 2008 -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the appointments to the NIH Council of Councils. The Council is made up of 27 members selected from the NIH Institute and Center (IC) advisory councils and advisory committees to the NIH Office of the Director. The Council will advise the NIH Director on cutting-edge trans-NIH priorities and matters related to the policies and activities of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, established by the NIH Reform Act 2006, and the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI). The Council also will act as an external advisory panel to the IC Directors during the concept approval stage of the review process for trans-NIH initiatives. For the full NIH press release, visit Dr. Hendrix will serve as liaison to the National Cancer Institute.


Thompson named senior leader at Lurie Cancer Center

Alexis Thompson, MD, MPH, has been named Associate Director for Health Disparities and Special Population Initiatives at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. In this new senior leadership position, Thompson will strengthen the community outreach and service programs of the Office of Health Disparities and Special Population Initiatives (HDSPI).

Yogev named Deputy Director for Research -- Clinical Sciences

August 2, 2007-- Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, President and Scientific Director of Children's Memorial Research Center, announced today two important changes to the research center:

  • Ram Yogev, MD, has assumed the position of Deputy Director for Research – Clinical Sciences.
  • The Program in Experimental Therapeutics has been renamed to the Program in Clinical and Translational Research, under the leadership of Ram Yogev, MD.

Xin Liu


Liu joins Smith Child Health Research Program

Xin Liu, MD, PhD joined the Mary Ann and J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program at Children’s Memorial Research Center, and the Department of Pediatrics of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine as a tenure track assistant professor in January 2007. Read more.


Klüppel joins Human Molecular Genetics Program

Michael Klüppel, PhD, joined the Human Molecular Genetics Program at Children’s Memorial Research Center from the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Canada, where he worked as a postdoctoral fellow and research associate in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Wrana. Read more.

Hui-Ju Tsai

Tsai joins Smith Child Health Research Program

Hui-Ju Tsai, MSc, MPH, PhD, joined the Mary Ann and J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program at Children's Memorial Research Center as a tenure track assistant professor in 2006. Read more.



Galat to head newly-created Stem Cell Core Facility

Vasil Galat, PhD, an expert in laboratory research on human embryonic stem cells, has been named director of Children’s Memorial’s Research Center’s Stem Cell Core Facility and appointed assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Galat was the former director of the Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis Laboratory in Torrance, California where he focused on assisted reproductive technologies including chromosome analysis, human embryo culture, somatic cell nuclear transfer and medical genetics.

Falk Brain Tumor Research Program Scientific Director announced

Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, President and Scientific Director of Children’s Memorial Research Center (CMRC), and Tadanori Tomita, MD, Director, Falk Brain Tumor Center at Children’s Memorial Hospital, are pleased to announce the appointment of M. Bento Soares, PhD, as Scientific Director of the Falk Brain Tumor Research Program at Children’s. Drs. Stewart Goldman and Bento Soares will collaborate with Dr. Tadanori Tomita, to continue making scientific and medical advancements for the benefit of children. Dr. Soares will concurrently serve as the director of the Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program of CMRC.

Spina elected President of SRA International

Philip V. Spina, CRA, Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy Director for Administration at Children's Memorial Research Center, has been elected as President, Society of Research Administrators International (SRA International). This nonprofit association is "dedicated to the education and the professional development of research administrators, as well as the enhancement of public understanding of the importance of research and its administration." Spina began his term in October 2005 as President-Elect and became President in October 2006. Read more.

Awards, Honors and Recognition

  /uploadedImages/News/Rankin_Tony(2).jpg  Tony Rankin, Facility manager for Children's Memorial Research Center, has published an article in the July 2009 issue of Today's Facility Manager entitled "Professional development: Creating a plan for disaster". Rankin outlines a plan for creating an emergency planning team, responding to the disaster or emergency, and developing plans for recovery and restoration. Read the article.
  /uploadedImages/News/InTouch/Summer_2008/Jones_Peggy(3).jpg   Peggy Jones, MILS, Librarian and communications manager for the research center, has received the 2009 Distinguished Member Award from the Biomedical and Life Sciences Division (DBIO) of the Special Libraries Association. The award is given annually to a DBIO member who has demonstrated distinction and exemplary service to the division and the profession.

Investiture June 2009

Investiture of Children's Memorial faculty

Four Children’s Memorial Medical Center faculty members were honored at an investiture ceremony on June 25, 2009 at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago. Patrick M. Magoon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Memorial Medical Center , with J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, Vice President for Medical Affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, led the ceremony. The honorees were introduced and thanked their respective philanthropic benefactors for their generous support.

Magoon remarked that “Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist, once said, ‘Discovery is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.’ Through their research in such varied fields as cancer, medical ethics, mental disorders, and kidney disease, tonight’s honorees – Seth J. Corey, MD; Joel E. Frader, MD; Jill A. Morris, PhD; and H. William Schnaper, MD -- are prime examples of this philosophy.”

He went on to say, “What unites these four individuals is a common goal: to improve the well-being of children. They are working to provide kids with the best opportunity to realize their full potential through novel cures, improved therapies and new perspectives in the practice of pediatric medicine. As experts in their respective fields, they also serve as mentors, freely sharing their knowledge and expertise with the young physicians and scientists who will be tomorrow’s leaders.”

Seth J. Corey, MD, MPH, is an attending physician in the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant at Children’s Memorial and a professor of pediatrics and cellular and molecular biology at the Feinberg School. Corey is director of oncology research at the hospital, co-director of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program at Children’s Memorial and the Feinberg School, and a member of the Cancer Biology and Epigenomics Program of the research center. Corey was invested as the Sharon B. Murphy, MD and Steven T. Rosen, MD Research Professor of Cancer Biology and Chemotherapy. Philanthropist Ann Lurie was acknowledged for making the endowed chair possible.

Joel E. Frader, MD, is an attending physician in the Division of General Academic Pediatrics and a professor of pediatrics and medical humanities and bioethics at the Feinberg School. He is head of the Division of General Academic Pediatrics, associate director of The Bridges Program - Pediatric Palliative and End-of-Life Care, and a member of the Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program of the research center. Frader was invested as the A Todd Davis, MD Professor of General Academic Pediatrics. The Founders’ Board of Children’s Memorial Hospital was recognized for its support of his endowed chair. 

 Jill A. Morris, PhD , is a researcher in the Human Molecular Genetics program of the research center and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Feinberg School. Morris was invested as the Eloise and Warren Batts Research Scholar. Philanthropists Warren and Eloise Batts were acknowledged for their support.

H. William Schnaper, MD, is an attending physician in the Division of Kidney Diseases at Children’s Memorial, an attending physician in pediatrics at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at the Feinberg School. He is vice chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Memorial and a member of the Clinical and Translational Research Program of the research center. Schnaper was invested as the Irene Heinz Given and John La Porte Given Research Chair in Pediatrics. The Irene Heinz Given and John LaPorte Given Foundation was recognized for its support.

Goldman honored by Children's Brain Tumor Foundation

May 14, 2009 - Actress Bonnie Hunt, mistress of ceremonies for the seventh annual Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation (CBTF) Benefit held in Manhattan, May 13, 2009, presented Stewart Goldman, MD, Children’s Memorial Hospital, with the Foundation’s Pioneer Award for outstanding contributions in pediatric neuro-oncology and brain tumor research. Goldman is medical director of neuro-oncology at Children’s Memorial, director of the Center for Clinical Trials Research  for Children’s Memorial Research Center and Associate professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School. Read the full story.

  Ma lab

Ma receives Schweppe award

The Schweppe Foundation has awarded Yong-Chao Ma, PhD a Career Development Award in Academic Medicine for 2009. Established in 1947 by John S. Schweppe, MD this award recognizes talented, young individual investigators and provides support for the development of their academic medical careers. The Foundation reviews research proposals submitted by young investigators from qualifying medical schools and selects the best candidates for the award.  Ma is Assistant professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a member of the Neurobiology Program of Children’s Memorial Research Center.

Ma with NUIN student Igor Rafalovich (right) and Research Associate Shannon Gallagher (left) in his laboratory


Ma wins Searle Award

Yong-Chao Ma, PhD, is the recipient of a 2009 Searle Scholar Award from the Searle Leadership Fund in the Life Sciences through Northwestern University. The Searle Award is a prestigious career development award from the Chicago Community Trust. Highly qualified nominees from across the university compete for this honor; selections are made by a committee of distinguished faculty representing a range of disciplines.


Lewandowski granted Bernardo Nobile Award

Remigiusz Lewandowski, PhD, has been granted the Bernardo Nobile Award for his PhD thesis entitled “Mapping of genetic modified organisms (GMOs) biosafety research with the use of data-mining techniques.” Read more.


Koh recognized for epilepsy research

 Sookyong Koh, MD, PhD, received the 2008 Dreifuss-Penry Epilepsy Award during the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 60th annual meeting. This award recognizes physicians in the early stages of their careers who have made an independent contribution to epilepsy research. Koh is assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School, an attending physician in the Division of Neurology at Children’s Memorial Hospital and a member of the Neurobiology Program of the research center.

Tsai receives March of Dimes Award

Hui-Ju Tsai, MPH, PhD, is one of ten recipients awarded by the March of Dimes Foundation in 2008. Tsai is seeking to explain ethnic disparities in preterm birth rates by looking for genetic differences between African-American women who gave birth preterm and those who did not. She is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and a member of the Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program of Children's Memorial Research Center.

Farrow receives Rowe Award

Kathryn N. Farrow, MD, PhD, a neonatologist at Children’s Memorial Hospital, has been awarded the 2008 Richard D. Rowe Award in Perinatal Cardiology from the Society for Pediatric Research. The Rowe Award was established in 1988 by colleagues, trainees and friends of Dr. Rowe to honor his many personal achievements, commitment to academic excellence, integrity and humility.


Eisenberg Scholars

The Children’s Memorial Research Center senior leadership is pleased to announce the selection of Vasil Galat, PhD (2007-2008) and Luigi Strizzi, MD, PhD (2008-2009) as Eisenberg Scholars. Dr. Galat is a Research Assistant Professor of Pathology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and serves as director of the research center's Stem Core Facility. Dr. Strizzi is a Research Assistant Professor in the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, and a member of the Cancer Biology & Epigenomics Program of the research center. The research interests of Dr. Galat include: Human embryonic stem cells; experimental embryology; medical genetics; and nuclear reprogramming. Dr. Strizzi’s research focuses on: Breast cancer stem cells; mammary gland development; tumor cell plasticity; and prognostic cancer biomarkers.

We are most grateful for the generosity of Marshall and JoAnn Eisenberg in supporting the promising careers of junior research faculty. Since 2004, seven faculty have benefited from the Eisenberg Scholars Fund: Zhila Ellis, PhD; Dawn Kirschmann, PhD; Joon Won Yoon, PhD; Tamas Virag, PhD; Zoe Demou, PhD; Vasil Galat, PhD; and Luigi Strizzi, MD, PhD.

Simon chairs platform session at AAA meeting

Hans-Georg Simon, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a laboratory director in the Developmental Biology Program at Children’s Memorial Research Center, organized and chaired a platform session on limb development for the 2008 American Association of Anatomists (AAA) annual meeting April 5-9 in San Diego. The title of the session was "How to Make a Limb: Developmental Paradigms." Simon invited scholars, particularly graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty members to present their work. For more information, please go to the AAA web site at

Suszko awarded Cystic Fibrosis Foundation fellowship

Magdalena Suszko, PhD, post-doctoral scientist in the Human Molecular Genetics Program (Harris group) has been awarded a Cystic Fibrosis Foundation post-doctoral fellowship, for 2 years from May 1 2007. Her project is entitled "The Role of Intron 1 in the Regulation of CFTR Gene Expression."

Ahlgren named to first Science Communication Fellows Program

Charlottesville, VA, Jan. 23, 2007 -- A group of 10 scientists will help increase public awareness and understanding of environmental health science as part of a new program that aims to publish and promote new research findings to a general audience. Each will receive a $5,000 stipend for their yearlong appointment to the Science Communication Fellows Program.

Starting in February, the first ever Science Communication Fellows, sponsored by the non-profit organization Environmental Health Sciences (EHS), will assist in identifying important new research findings about environment and health that are just published or about to be published in peer-reviewed journals. The Fellows will help translate the findings so they are more accessible to working reporters and to a broader public audience.

Sara Ahlgren, PhD, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University, and director of a laboratory in the Developmental Biology Program, is one of the ten Science Communication Fellows. Ahlgren studies the interaction between genes and environment, especially how toxic substances alter genetic pathways leading to birth defects. receives Medical Marketing & Media award

The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children has received the 2006 Silver award for Healthcare Web Site of the Year from Medical Marketing & Media. Medical Marketing & Media is a monthly business publication that has been serving healthcare marketers since 1966.

Hendrix receives 2006 Henry Gray Award

Dr. Mary Hendrix has been selected as the recipient of the 2006 Henry Gray Award by the American Association of Anatomists (AAA). The Henry Gray Award is the highest honor of the AAA, and it recognizes a lifetime of achievement, including unique and meritorious contributions to the field of anatomical science. Mary will receive her award on April 4, 2006 during the annual meeting of the AAA as part of the Experimental Biology Meeting in San Diego.

Schumacker receives American Thoracic Society Award

Paul T. Schumacker, PhD, head of the Neonatology Research Laboratory at Children’s Memorial Research Center, received the American Thoracic Society Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishment for 2006. This prestigious award is given to individuals for outstanding scientific contributions to the understanding, prevention and treatment of lung disease. Schumacker’s research focuses on regulation mechanisms of oxygen sensors in the newborns’ lungs.


Mirkin portrait unveiling 2

Mirkin portrait unveiling 

Celebrating Bernard L. Mirkin, PhD, MD

The memory and special contributions of Bernard L. Mirkin, PhD, MD, were celebrated during the unveiling of his portrait at Children’s Memorial Research Center on May 6, 2009. Dr. Mirkin, the founding director of the research center, was remembered by his colleagues, family and friends. Speaking to the audience, Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, President and Scientific Director of the research center, commented on his career, vision and humanitarian work. “He left an indelible mark on the lives of countless individuals whom he helped,” Hendrix said. Patrick Magoon, President and CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital, spoke of Dr. Mirkin’s exceptional attitude of caring towards his colleagues, demonstrated by his willingness to share personal stories and ask questions about others, and by his insistence that colleagues be inquisitive about their own lives and work. Thomas Green, MD, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and a former mentee of Dr. Mirkin, called him “one of the original translational scientists,” committed to excellence in science and to improving the care of children. Dr. Mirkin’s widow, Sarah, emphasized the importance he placed on scientists’ abilities to operate not in silos but across areas of investigation. She stressed that the research center would not have existed without the vision of the Children’s Memorial Hospital leadership combined with Dr. Mirkin’s determination to make it a reality.

Following the remarks, Hendrix introduced the artist, Richard Halstead and the frame designer, Christopher Cismesia. A reception followed the unveiling. The portrait has been hung in the Wolfson Conference room at the research center’s Halsted Street building.

For more photos from this event click here. 



Research Scholars Day 2008

Children's Memorial Research Center and Children's Memorial Hospital hosted the 4th annual Research Scholars Day on May 13, 2008. Postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows, graduate students and research technicians showcased their research with poster presentations. Peter F. Whitington, MD, director, Siragusa Transplantation Center; Sally Burnett Searle Professor of Pediatrics and Transplantation, and professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, presented the keynote address. Posters were evaluated by a team of judges, and the winners were presented with awards at a reception.

Many thanks go to the event's organizers:
Denise Goodman, MD
Daniel Abbott, MD
Sara Ahlgren, PhD
Caleb Bailey, PhD
Denise Lilly
Yolanda Palmer

Read about Research Scholars Day award winners.

The Children's Memorial Research Center's Research Progress Reports and Seminar series have been approved for Continuing Medical Education credits by Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine's CME Review Committee. Each participant will receive a maximum of 1.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™ per lecture.

The Seminar series is scheduled for Thursdays at 4 pm in Wolfson Lecture Hall at 2430 N. Halsted St.
The Research Progress Reports series is scheduled for Fridays at noon in Wolfson Lecture Hall.

To view scheduled seminars, refer to the "Upcoming Events" bar on the right of the main page.
Please contact Yolanda Palmer at  or 773 755-6384 if you have questions about the CME program.


Children's Memorial Hospital launches web site for federal stimulus dollars

Congress passed and President Obama signed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA), also known as the Stimulus Package, in February 2009. Contained within this act is the allocation of billions of dollars for research funded through various federal funding agencies.

Children’s Memorial Hospital, Office of Sponsored Programs, has built this webpage that lists the various funding opportunities as they are released, website links to the federal and state agencies recovery home pages, and postings of important news and updates related to ARRA.  See:

Isabelle De Plaen 

Isabelle De Plaen, MD, was awarded a 2008 American Gastroenterological Association Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition Bridging Grant. Her long-term goals are to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that lead to neonatal enterocolitis (NEC), a deadly disease affecting the bowel of the premature infant, and to develop new therapeutic approaches. De Plaen’s laboratory has developed and characterized a neonatal mouse model of NEC. Using this model, she is studying the cell-specific role of the transcription factor nuclear factor-kB, a major regulator of inflammation, on bowel injury and NEC. She expects that the results will have an important impact on the understanding of NEC pathogenesis and promote specific celltargeted therapies to change the outcome of this devastating disease. De Plaen is Associate professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School, a member of the Center for Digestive Diseases and Immunobiology of the research center and a neonatologist at Children’s Memorial Hospital.

Food allergy study

Twelve investigators have received grants totaling $5 million over two years to lead high-impact, innovative studies on food allergy, a significant public health concern. Xiaobin Wang, MD, MPH, ScD, is a recipient. Read more.

NUCATS award

The Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (NUCATS) garnered a $29 million Clinical and Translational Science Award from the NIH. The award supports NUCATS’ ongoing efforts and funds five centers within the institute. Two of the five centers will be led by Children’s Memorial attending physicians. Read more.

Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust support exciting, ground-breaking studies

Children’s Memorial Research Center was recently awarded two grants from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. The grants will support Dr. Xiaobin Wang’s study, “Application of Genomics and Proteomics Approach in Understanding Biological Mechanisms of Food Allergy,” and Dr. Hans-Georg Simon’s study, “Rebuilding a Heart.” Read more.


Simon receives grant to study limb regeneration

Do mammals have the potential to re-grow arms and legs? A Children’s Memorial Research Center scientist is part of a national study seeking to answer that question. The partial or complete loss of digits or limbs and deforming disabilities resulting from serious illness can profoundly affect a person’s life. This presents a challenge for the medical community charged with their care.

Recognizing the need for novel approaches that can restore, even partially, the structure and function of lost or damaged tissues, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a $3.7 million grant to a consortium of six universities and research centers to unlock the regenerative potential in humans. Read more.

Salamanders, like the red spotted newt, can regenerate their limbs,
tails, spinal cords and jaws.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich
commits $10 million to stem cell

State grant results in $2 million for stem cell research

Children's Memorial Research Center recently received nearly $2 million in a two-year grant from the state of Illinois for research on reversal of disease progression by stem cells. The research center was awarded the largest single grant out of 10 local institutions receiving funds from Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute (IRMI), which was created by Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s executive order last July to provide $10 million in state-funded grants for stem cell research. Children’s Memorial was the only pediatric institution to receive IRMI funding. The research center’s president and scientific director, Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, will be the principal investigator.

Morris receives McKnight Grant to explore causes of brain disorders

The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience has committed $1.5 million over three years to investigate the root causes of neurological and psychiatric disorders. The 2006 Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Awards will support U.S. scientists for research aimed at diagnosing, preventing, and treating injuries or diseases of the brain or spinal cord. The five projects selected this year are studying mechanisms involved in stroke, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, autism, and sleep disorders. Each will receive $300,000 over the three-year period. Read more.

Fox Foundation grant funds major gene therapy advance for treatment of Parkinson's disease

An innovative gene therapy approach pioneered by Pennsylvania-based RheoGene Inc. will be further refined and tested in preliminary clinical trials within four years, thanks to a $4.2 million grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF).  A wholly owned affiliate of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), RheoGene Inc. has developed technology to manage gene expression, a key component of gene-based therapies. RheoGene's therapeutic system uses a patented small-molecule mediator that can turn genes "on" or "off" as well as adjust the level of gene activity similar to the way a rheostat regulates electric current. Read more.

In the News

Blazowski featured in FSM Research Newsletter

Francine Blazowski, MSW, Special Assistant to the President and Scientific Director of Children's Memorial Research Center, was profiled in the April 2009 issue of the Feinberg School's Research Newsletter.

Hendrix testifies on NIH funding before Congress

Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhD, testified before the United States Congress Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on March 18, 2009. Dr. Hendrix represented the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research -- a coalition of more than 300 patient and voluntary health groups, medical and scientific societies, academic and research organizations, and industry. Her testimony advocated for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health in 2011 and beyond, in order to advance the new directions charted with the support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Read the full text of the testimony .

See also the March 20, 2009 edition of FASEB Washington Update featuring Dr. Hendrix.

 /uploadedImages/News/Kumar_Rajesh.jpg  November 21, 2008 — Reuters Health
A “distressingly high” proportion of inner-city children with asthma are exposed to cigarette smoke at levels that could be harming their health. More than two-thirds of the 8- to 14-year-olds in a study conducted by Rajesh Kumar, MD, Assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School and attending physician in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s Memorial and colleagues, had levels of the nicotine byproduct cotinine in their saliva, demonstrating that they were breathing enough second-hand smoke to affect their asthma. Identifying caregivers of asthmatic children who are smokers and providing intense intervention to help them quit could help reduce harm from asthma in poor inner city children, the researchers conclude. The study was published in the October 2008 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
 Karen Sheehan November 28, 2008 — Washington Post (HealthDay News)
In response to the annual toy safety report, Trouble in Toyland, issued by the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Children’s Memorial, and medical director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids, thinks more must be done to protect children from dangerous toys. “For decades, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been under-funded and lacked the resources to be proactive in screening for hazards. Parents need to carefully choose toys — especially for young children,” Sheehan said.
Jill Morris A study conducted by Jill Morris, PhD during her tenure as a postdoctoral fellow at the NIH, was featured in the November 2008 issue of The Scientist. The 1997 study, published in Science, was the first to describe the NPC1 gene, which is responsible for a rare neurodegenerative disorder called Niemann-Pick Type C. As a result of this discovery, the NIH is currently conducting drug screens for the treatment of NPC and Alzheimer’s disease. Morris is Assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School and a member of the Human Molecular Genetics Program of the research center.


Langman's research featured on ABC 7

A Vitamin D story featuring the research of Craig B. Langman, MD, head of the Division of Kidney Diseases, aired on ABC 7 Chicago on Thursday, January 15, during the HEALTHBEAT section of the program. Click here to view the segment.

Researchers put a microscope on food allergies

December 9, 2008 -- The Children's Memorial Food Allergy Project, Inc., featuring Drs. Xiaobin Wang and Jacqueline Pongracic, is the feature story in the New York Times health section.

WGN Radio's thee-part series on the growing problem of food allergies

A three-part series on food allergies featuring Jacqueline Pongracic, MD, head of the Division of Allergy and Immunology; Rachel Story, MD, Allergy and Immunology; and the Bunning Family of the Bunning Food Allergy Project based at Children’s Memorial, aired twice daily on WGN Radio April 30 - May 2.
Go to the Children's Memorial Hospital news room story.

Hidden Wounds of Violence

Deborah L. Shelton, Chicago Tribune reporter
April 28, 2008 -- In a Chicago Tribune article about violence and its effects on children in Chicago, Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, attending physician at Children's Memorial Hospital, Medical Director of the hospital's Injury Prevention and Research Center and Injury Free Coalition for Kids, said that some of the children she sees confide that they have difficulty falling asleep because they feel afraid. She said, "Lack of sleep leads to obesity, attention-deficit disorders and other things that feed into a cycle of poor health."
Her colleague, Maryann Mason, PhD, associate director of the Child Health Data Lab at Children's Memorial Research Center, is conducting research on the physical activity levels of children ages 5 to 10 who live in five primarily low-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods in Chicago. Her team has found that the parents most likely to keep their children indoors weren't always the ones living in areas with the most crime; they were the ones who thought the crime rate was highest. "The higher the parental perception of crime, the more sedentary the kids are after school," Mason said. "It's probably true that they are keeping them inside to play video games and watch TV." Read the Chicago Tribune story.


InTouch Summer 2009  PDF (779 kb). InTouch, published quarterly, is the newsletter for the research center.

Spring 2009  PDF (754 kb)

Winter 2009  PDF (719 kb)

Fall 2008  PDF (2.4 mb)

Summer 2008 (TOC and full text). Click here for the PDF (1.5 mb).

Spring 2008 (TOC and full text). Click here for the PDF (1.6 mb).

Winter 2008 (TOC and full text). Click here for the PDF (1 mb).

Fall 2007 (TOC and full text). Click here for the PDF (1 mb).


The Lurie Matching Challenge Grant for Medical Research Facilities: Ushering in a new era of pediatric research in Chicago

The location of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Streeterville opens the door for greater research and clinical collaboration with future campus neighbors, including Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, its Prentice Women’s Hospital and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

To ensure the necessary space and facilities to foster collaborative pediatric research in Streeterville, Ann Lurie has issued a special challenge to the Chicago community. Her $100 million gift to Children’s Memorial includes a $20 million matching challenge grant designed to generate philanthropic support specifically for the hospital’s research enterprise. Read more >>


Gift from the Ruttenberg Arts Foundation

The David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation has made a generous gift of important photographs from its collection to Children's Memorial Research Center. On behalf of the research center, Philip Iannaccone, MD, PhD, Deputy Director for Research-Basic Sciences, accepted the gift from Michal Raz-Russo, co-curator and administrator for the Ruttenberg Collection. The research center will be working with experts from Columbia College of Chicago to site the photographs.

Unique public-private partnership announced

February 16, 2007 -- Children's Memorial Research Center announced a public-private partnership that will result in therapy and prevention for Chicago-area adolescents with HIV and youth who are at risk for contracting the disease.

Ann Lurie, a Chicago native, contributed over $1 million to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) to fund the Adolescent Trials Network (ATN) for HIV/AIDS Interventions. The NIH's contribution brought the total funded amount to $1.9 million. In partnership with the Howard Brown Health Center, the Midwest’s premier lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health care organization, Children's Memorial Hospital will enroll HIV-positive youth in clinical trials of drugs, and at-risk youth in HIV prevention trials.

Ms. Lurie spoke of her passion for Children's Memorial Hospital's role in advocacy and the importance of funding an HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention program. Speaking at the press conference, Illinois State Senator John Cullerton characterized her as a "very generous and extraordinary person." Ms. Lurie was presented with a plaque by the research center in honor of her outstanding contribution.


Jill A. Morris, PhD

A genetic basis for schizophrenia

Chicago, Illinois, July 8, 2009 — Schizophrenia is a severely debilitating psychiatric disease that is thought to have its roots in the development of the nervous system; however, major breakthroughs linking its genetics to diagnosis, prognosis and treatment are still unrealized.  Jill A. Morris, PhD , studies a gene that is involved in susceptibility to schizophrenia, Disc1 (Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia 1). Two recent publications by Morris and colleagues focus on the role of Disc1 in development, particularly the migration of cells to their proper location in the brain and subsequent differentiation into their intended fate. During development, cells need to properly migrate to their final destination in order to develop into the appropriate cell-type, integrate into the corresponding network of cells and function properly. Disruption of cell migration can lead to inappropriate cell development and function, resulting in disease.

The first paper, published in the July 2009 online issue of the journal Development, followed the role of Disc1 in cranial neural crest (CNC) cells, which are multi-potent cells that give rise to multiple cell types including craniofacial cartilage and the peripheral nervous system during development. They also are similar to neurons in their high mobility, response to signals and cellular origin. The Morris laboratory determined that Disc1 regulates two stem cell maintenance factors that have many functions in CNC cells, including the maintenance of precursor pools, timing of migration onset and the induction of cell differentiation. The authors showed that Disc1 disruption results in increased expression of these factors, leading to hindered cell migration and a change in cell fate. “This research indicates that Disc1 may be involved in regulating stem cells and their fate,” says Morris.

The second paper, published in the June 2009 online issue of Human Molecular Genetics, studied the hippocampus, a brain area that is involved in learning and memory, and is also associated with the pathology of schizophrenia. Disc1 is highly expressed in the hippocampus, particularly the dentate gyrus, which is considered the gateway to the hippocampus. In this study, the authors decreased Disc1 expression using RNA interference in the developing mouse hippocampus. The loss of Disc1 resulted in hindered migration of dentate gyrus granule cells to their proper location in the brain. “Improper migration of hippocampal neurons may result in altered connectivity in the brain,” says Morris.

Jill Morris, PhD is an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, a researcher in the Human Molecular Genetics Program of Children’s Memorial Research Center and the Eloise and Warren Batts Research Scholar. Co-authors on these publications are (Development): Catherine Drerup, PhD, Heather Wiora and Jacek Topczewski, PhD; and (Human Molecular Genetics): Kate Meyer. Drerup is a former graduate student and Meyer a current graduate student, both in the Morris laboratory. Funding was provided by the McKnight Brain Disorders Award; the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression; the National Institute of Mental Health; and the Illinois Department of Public Aid. 

Isabelle De PlaenNF-kappaB, shock and acute bowel injury

Platelet-activating factor (PAF), an endogenous proinflammatory phospholipid, when injected intravascularly to rats and mice, causes shock and acute bowel injury that resembles necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a disease affecting premature infant. Therefore, this has been used as an animal model to study acute bowel injury and NEC. PAF i.v. induces the rapid activation of a major regulator of inflammation, transcription factor Nuclear Factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) p50-p50 and an increase in the production of the chemokine CXCL2. CXCL2 has been shown to mediate PAF-induced acute bowel injury. In a study published in the July 2009 issue of the American Journal of Physiology. Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, the laboratory of Isabelle De Plaen, MD investigated the mechanism of NF-kappaB activation and the role of the NF-kappaB p50 subunit in PAF-induced shock and acute bowel injury. They found that PAF induced the processing of NF-kappaB p105 into p50 and that NF-kappaB p50-deficient mice were protected against PAF-induced mortality, shock, intestinal hypoperfusion, and injury compared with wild-type animals. They also found that p50-deficient mice had decreased gene expression of CXCL2 and TNF and a decrease in CXCL2 protein production compared with wild-type mice. The study suggests that p50 plays a role in the PAF-induced systemic inflammatory response and acute bowel injury. 

 Isabelle De Plaen, MD is Associate professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School; an attending physician in the Division of Neonatology at Children's Memorial; and a member of the Center for Digestive Diseases and Immunobiology and the Clinical and Translational Research Program of the research center.

Joel FraderHospital policies on donation

Although authoritative bodies have promulgated guidelines for donation after cardiac death (DCD) and the Joint Commission requires hospitals to address DCD, little is known about actual hospital policies. In a study published in the May 13, 2009 issue of JAMA, Joel Frader, MD and colleagues characterized DCD policies in children's hospitals and evaluated variation among policies. They conducted a mixed-methods analysis of policies collected between November 2007 and January 2008 from hospitals in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada in 2 membership categories of the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions. The authors concluded that most children's hospitals have developed or are developing DCD policies.  However, these policies vary considerably from one institution to another and to the degree to which they conform to recommendations or requirements from national authorities and regulatory agencies.  In addition, the policies do not always clarify the ethical basis for the institutional actions they specify.

Health professionals and conscientious objection

Frader and Charles L. Bosk, a medical sociologist, write in the February 2009 issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics. Part C, Seminars in Medical Genetics that staff members’ conscientious objection (CO) to recommending or providing genetic testing raises serious questions about what it means to be a health-care professional (HCP). Most of the discussion about CO has focused on the logic of moral arguments for and against aspects of CO and has ignored the social context in which CO occurs. Invoking CO to deny services to patients violates both the professional's duty to respect the patient's autonomy and also the community standards that determine legitimate treatment options. The HCP exercising the right of CO may make it impossible for the patient to exercise constitutionally guaranteed rights to self-determination around reproduction. This creates a decision-making imbalance between the HCP and the patient that amounts to an abuse of professional power. To prevent such abuses, professionals who wish to refrain from participating have an obligation to warn prospective patients of their objections prior to establishing a professional-patient relationship or, if a relationship already exists, to arrange for alternative care expeditiously.

Joel Frader, MD is Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Humanities and Bioethics and A Todd Davis Professor of Academic Medicine at the Feinberg School; Head of the Division of General Academic Pediatrics and Associate director of The Bridges Program - Pediatric Palliative and End-of-Life Care at Children’s Memorial; and a member of the Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program of the research center.

galatStem cell lineages

Bert Binas of Texas A&M University (currently Hanyang University) and Philip M. Iannaccone, MD, PhD, working with Vasil Galat and colleagues found that certain stem cells that are derived from rat blastocysts and named extraembryonic endoderm precursor (XEN-P) cells, show a unique molecular signature sharing some of the characteristics of embryonic stem cells (ES), trophoblast stem cells (TS) and extraembryonic endoderm stem cells (XEN). These XEN-P cells are positive for AP, SSEA1, Oct4 and Rex1 markers similar to ES cells and also express signature markers of TS - eomesodermin (Eomes) and XEN - Gata6. In a paper published in the May 2009 online issue of Stem Cells and Development, they show that these cells integrate not only into the visceral and parietal extraembryonic endoderm lineages as observed before, but also into the inner cell mass (ICM), the primitive endoderm, and the polar and mural trophectoderm of cultured embryos.   In addition, they found that the XEN-P cells colonize yolk sac and contribute to trophoblast lineages of post-implantation embryos following transfer to surrogate mothers. These cells do not contribute to the fetus itself as ES cells do.  They also found that the XEN-P cell culture propagates by shedding cell clusters into the media in addition to typical expansion of colonies. Interestingly, the cell cultures exist as mixed populations of two interconvertible phenotypes of flat and round cells with preferential expression of stem cell markers Oct 4 and SSEA1 in round cells. The laboratory believes these cells represent a metastable stage during ICM cellular segregation. These results are important to developing hypotheses of cell fate plasticity in the ICM and provide a model for the study of development and differentiation along the extraembryonic lineages.  The significance is that the isolation of the last remaining theoretical population of cells in the inner cell mass of blastocyst stage embryos shows that this structure comprises a heterogeneous population cells that are loosely committed to the lineages of all part of the developing animal. How this state is maintained and how actual fate commitment occurs will have major implications for stem cell biology. 

Vasil Galat, PhD is an Assistant professor of Pathology at the Feinberg School and co-directs the research center’s iPS and Human Stem Cell Core Facility with Philip M. Iannaccone, MD, PhD, who is a Professor of Pediatrics and the George M. Eisenberg Professor at the Feinberg School; and Senior vice president, Deputy director for research and director of the Developmental Biology Program of the research center. Other contributors to the work include Steven Iannaccone, Lynne-Marie Postovit, PhD and Bisrat Debeb, PhD.

Infectious mononucleosis linked to chronic fatigue syndrome in teens

July 14, 2009 (Reuters Health Medical News) – The results of a study published in the July 2009 issue of Pediatrics suggest that infectious mononucleosis may be a risk factor for chronic fatigue syndrome in adolescents. Previous studies suggest that 9% to 12% of adults with acute infectious mononucleosis go on to develop chronic fatigue syndrome, Ben Z. Katz, MD and colleagues write. However, there have been no comparable prospective studies with teens and no studies with teens have monitored post-infectious mononucleosis for longer than 6 months. The researchers prospectively monitored 301 adolescents with infectious mononucleosis. Six months after the mononucleosis diagnosis, 70 patients (24%) had not made a full recovery. These subjects underwent clinical evaluations at 6, 12, and 24 months and established pediatric criteria were used to diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. A clinical evaluation was performed at 6 months on 53 of the 70 teens who had not recovered. Thirty-nine of these subjects were diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, reflecting 13% of the original group of 301. At 12-month follow-up, 7% had chronic fatigue syndrome and at 24 months, chronic fatigue syndrome persisted in 4%. "As part of our study, we also followed a group of adolescents who completely recovered from their mononucleosis," Katz said in an email interview with Reuters Health. "We are now in the process of trying to figure out what differentiates adolescents who recover from those who don't," he said. "Objective criteria that could differentiate these two groups would have obvious implications for prognosis and for targeting potential future therapeutic interventions."

Ben Z. Katz, MD is Professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School; Attending physician in the Division of Infectious Disease, Medical director of the International Travel Immunizations Program and Co-Medical director of the International Adoptee Program at Children’s Memorial; and a member of the Clinical and Translational Research Program of the research center.

Control of development and disease from an unlikely source

Can mental disorders result from altered embryonic development? This is a question posed by Jhumku Kohtz, PhD, a member of the Developmental Biology Program of the research center. Kohtz, along with her laboratory and colleagues at the Feinberg School, have published research in the August 2009 issue of Nature Neuroscience that finds for the first time that a noncoding RNA called Evf2 is important for gene regulation and the development of interneurons that produce GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Noncoding RNA doesn’t produce a protein but has some enzymatic, structural or regulatory function. Kohtz is Associate professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School; and Director of Research Technologies at the research center.

Palliative care training needs

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians become knowledgeable in and comfortable with providing palliative care. A study conducted by Kelly Michelson and colleagues aimed to determine the extent of training, knowledge, experience, comfort and competence in palliative care communication and symptom management of pediatric residents and fellows; obtained residents' and fellows' views on key palliative care concepts; identified topics and methods for palliative care education; and identified differences in responses between residents and fellows. Pediatrics residents and fellows completed a survey, and described none to moderate levels of training, experience, knowledge, competence and comfort in palliative care. Most respondents said they would benefit from more formal palliative care training. Respondents identified discussing prognosis, delivering bad news, and pain control as the three most important areas of needed education. Learning about supporting families spiritually and emotional support for physicians were among the least important educational areas identified. Respondents recommended delivering education via observation, bedside teaching, and participation in multidisciplinary groups. The authors concluded that efforts to improve education in pediatric palliative care are needed. A palliative care team could facilitate palliative care education through engaging trainees in "real-life" interactions. The role of physicians in providing spiritual support and the need for educating physicians in obtaining emotional support for themselves merit further investigation. The study was published in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

Kelly N. Michelson, MD is Assistant professor of Pediatrics and Associate physician at the Buehler Center on Aging, Health and Society at the Feinberg School; attending physician in the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Children’s Memorial; and a member of the Smith Child Health Research Program of the research center.

Research on juvenile dermatomyositis

The laboratory of Lauren Pachman, MD, sought to determine the presence of small integrin-binding ligand N-linked glycoprotein (SIBLING) and bone components in juvenile dermatomyositis (DM) dystrophic calcifications, one of the most troubling consequences of chronic inflammation in children with JDM. Calcifications were removed from 4 girls with juvenile DM symptoms more than 3 years and they were stained for SIBLING proteins. The disorganized juvenile DM calcifications differ in structure, composition, and protein content from bone, as well as the lack of deposition of hydroxyapatite on collagen, suggesting that they may not form through an osteogenic pathway. Osteoclasts at the deposit surface represent an attempt to initiate its resolution.  The findings were published in the April 2009 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism and an illustration from the paper was featured on the cover.

Interferon-alpha (IFNalpha) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of juvenile dermatomyositis (DM). The aim of a study co-authored by Pachman and published in the June 2009 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism was to examine serum IFNalpha activity in a cohort of children with juvenile DM to determine relationships between IFNalpha and indicators of disease activity and severity. Thirty-nine children with definite/probable juvenile DM were included in the study. Serum samples were obtained at the time of diagnosis from 18 untreated patients with juvenile DM. Second samples from 11 of these patients were obtained at 24 months, while they were receiving treatment, and third samples were obtained from 7 of these patients at 36 months. The remaining 21 children were studied 36 months after their initial diagnosis. Serum IFNalpha activity was measured using a functional reporter cell assay. Patients with juvenile DM had higher serum IFNalpha activity than both pediatric and adult healthy control subjects. In untreated patients, serum IFNalpha activity was positively correlated with serum muscle enzyme levels and inversely correlated with the duration of untreated disease. The tumor necrosis factor alpha -308A allele was associated with higher serum IFNalpha levels only in untreated patients. At 36 months, serum IFNalpha levels were inversely correlated with muscle enzyme levels in those patients still requiring therapy and with the skin Disease Activity Score in those patients who had completed therapy. The authors concluded that serum IFNalpha activity was associated with higher serum levels of muscle-derived enzymes and a shorter duration of untreated disease in patients with newly diagnosed juvenile DM and was inversely correlated with measures of chronic disease activity at 36 months postdiagnosis. These data suggest that IFNalpha could play a role in disease initiation in juvenile DM. 

Lauren M. Pachman, MD is Professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School; attending physician in the Division of Rheumatology/Immunology at Children’s Memorial; and Director of the Chicago City-wide FOCIS (Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies) Center of Excellence of the research center.

Wainwright_spring08Early-life seizures and neurologic injury

Early-life seizures result in increased susceptibility to seizures and greater neurologic injury with a second insult in adulthood. The mechanisms that link seizures in early-life to increased susceptibility to neurologic injury following a 'second hit' are not known. In a paper published in the June 2009 online issue of Brain Research, the laboratory of Mark Wainwright, MD, PhD examined the contribution of microglial activation and increased proinflammatory cytokine production to the subsequent increase in susceptibility to neurologic injury using a kainic acid (KA)-induced, established 'two-hit' seizure model in rats. Postnatal day (P)15 rats were administered intraperitoneal KA (early-life seizures) or saline, followed on P45 with either a 'second hit' of KA, a first exposure to KA (adult seizures), or saline. The levels of proinflammatory cytokines (IL-1beta, TNF-alpha, and S100B), the chemokine CCL2, microglial activation, seizure susceptibility and neuronal outcomes were measured in adult rats 12 hours and 10 days after the second hit on P45. The 'two-hit' group exposed to KA on both P15 and P45 had higher levels of cytokines, greater microglial activation, and increased susceptibility to seizures and neurologic injury compared to the adult seizures group. Treatment after early-life seizures with Minozac, a small molecule experimental therapeutic that targets upregulated proinflammatory cytokine production, attenuated the enhanced microglial and cytokine responses, the increased susceptibility to seizures, and the greater neuronal injury in the 'two-hit' group. These results implicate microglial activation as one mechanism by which early-life seizures contribute to increased vulnerability to neurologic insults in adulthood, and indicate the potential longer term benefits of early-life intervention with therapies that target up-regulation of proinflammatory cytokines. The paper will also be featured on the cover of Brain Research.

Mark Wainwright, MD, PhD is Associate professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School; a member of the Center for Drug Discovery and Chemical Biology at Northwestern University; Attending physician in the Division of Neurology at Children's Memorial; and Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Pediatric Critical Illness and Injury and a member of the Neurobiology Program of the research center.

 William Tse

Researchers at Children's Memorial Hospital propose a new model of stem cell memory and plasticity

April 7, 2009 — How does a human cell remember its past and decide its future? Working with human bone marrow stem cells that can turn into bone or muscle, researchers at Children's Memorial Research Center have recently demonstrated how these cells juggle decision-making processes that determine their fate. The research was published in the April 6, 2009 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Team leader William T. Tse, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Read more.


Health threats from malignant melanoma targeted

Naira V. Margaryan, DVM, PhD, Research scientist in the laboratory of Mary J.C. Hendrix, PhDCancer Biology and Epigenomics Program of the research center, is first author on a paper published in the February 2009 issue of Cancer Biology and Therapy. The paper’s title is also featured on the cover of the issue. The greatest health threat from malignant melanoma is death due to metastatic disease. Consequently, the identification of markers predictive of metastatic disease is essential for developing new therapeutic targets. EphA2, a receptor commonly expressed in epithelial cells, has been found to be overexpressed in melanoma tumor cells having a metastatic phenotype. The researchers analyzed a panel of human melanoma tumor cell lines derived from patient tissues classified as primary and/or metastatic for the expression of EphA2, and found a correlation between increased EphA2 expression and metastatic potential. Experiments using the most metastatic of the human melanoma cell lines demonstrated that downregulation of EphA2 results in a significant decrease in invasion, proliferation, clonogenicity and vasculogenic mimicry in vitro, in addition to suppressed tumorigenicity in an orthotopic mouse model. These results provide the first direct in vivo evidence demonstrating a role for EphA2 in promoting melanoma tumorigenicity and suggest EphA2 as a significant molecular target for the therapeutic intervention of malignant melanoma.

Racial disparities in birth outcomes

In the United States, African-American infants have significantly worse outcomes than white infants. In a review published in the March 2009 issue of Clinics in Perinatology, James W. Collins, Jr., MD, MPH and Richard J. David, MD, looked beyond traditional risk factors and explored the social context of race in this country in an effort to understand African-American women’s longstanding pregnancy outcome disadvantage. In the process, new insights were highlighted concerning likely causes for the poor birth outcomes of white infants in this country compared with infants in most other industrialized nations. An extensive body of literature strongly suggests that closing the racial gap in prenatal care use cannot singularly lead to closure of the gap in the incidence of low birth weight. An expanding literature shows that aberrant early life (i.e., fetal) programming and cumulative wear and tear (i.e., weathering) underlie African-American women’s reproductive outcome disadvantage. Eliminating the racial gap in birth outcomes takes a life-course approach, addressing early life disadvantages in addition to lifelong exposure to neighborhood poverty, interpersonal racial discrimination, and job strain. Collins is Professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School, a member of the Division of Neonatology at Children’s Memorial Hospital, and the Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program of the research center.



Effects of ethanol on embryos

The phenotype of embryos exposed to ethanol is complex and likely due to multiple alterations in developmental pathways. Among the conditions found in children with fetal alcohol exposure is a persistent short stature relative to unexposed peers and family members, as well as defects in musculature. The laboratory of Sara Ahlgren, PhD used zebrafish embryos to examine the effects of ethanol on development of the trunk. In this study they describe defects in early embryonic cell movements that lead to a reduction in the length of the trunk of exposed embryos. Defects in muscle cell development are also seen in exposed embryos. Many of these defects are similar to those in embryos exposed to specific drugs that inhibit the developmental signaling molecule, Sonic hedgehog (Shh). Increasing Shh in zebrafish embryos exposed to ethanol reverses most of these defects associated with trunk development. The study was published in the June 2009 issue of Birth Defects Research. Part A, Clinical and Molecular Teratology. Ahlgren is Assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School and a member of the Developmental Biology Program of the research center. She is also the Crown Family Research Scholar in Developmental Biology.

 Cheng lab

In vitro study

Children suffering from neural tube defects such as spina bifida encounter a myriad of physiological problems that may include hydrocephalus, varying degrees of paralysis, and dysfunctional bowel and bladder tissues. A current goal of regenerative medicine therapies includes the isolation of autologous sources of cells that may be used in combination with synthetic matrices in a manner that would be conducive to urinary bladder regeneration. In order to conduct such studies, these appropriate cell types must be delineated and characterized prior to any in vivo manipulation. In an important in vitro study published in the February 2009 online issue of the World Journal of Urology, Arun Sharma, PhD and colleagues have determined that “standard procedures” utilized routinely to isolate the smooth muscle cells that make up the bladder wall that comprise the basis for a bladder graft have resulted in a mixed population of cells. The ramifications of these findings suggest that contaminating cells in these preparations may hinder cell-to-scaffold interactions, and negatively affect the porosity of cell seeded synthetic scaffolds used for urinary bladder tissue engineering. More importantly, mixed populations of cells utilizing the “standard procedure” do not resemble the native bladder tissue from a physiological and functional perspective. Further studies by Sharma will try to elucidate schemes that allow for the isolation of purified populations of these cell types along with the identification of unique, autologous cell sources for urinary bladder regeneration. Sharma is a member of the Division of Pediatric Urology at Children’s Memorial Hospital, Department of Urology at the Feinberg School, the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine at Northwestern University, and the Developmental Biology Program of the research center.

 Cynthia LaBella

Research team helps get female athletes back on the field

Sports-related knee pain is a common complaint among female adolescent athletes and frequently limits sports participation. A research team led by Cynthia R. LaBella, MD tested the hypothesis that preseason neuromuscular training would reduce sports-related knee pain and improve self-rated athletic performance. The results suggest that this is the case, and support the development of curricula to train coaches in incorporating neuromuscular exercises into their preseason routines. The study is published in Clinical Pediatrics. LaBella is medical director of the Children’s Memorial Institute for Sports Medicine and Assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School. Co-authors are Michael R. Huxford, MEd, Tracie L. Smith, MPH and Jenifer Cartland, PhD. Smith and Cartland are members of the Mary Ann and J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program of the research center. Read about the Knee Injury Prevention Program (KIPPTM) at Children’s Memorial.

 Neil Blackledge
Neil Blackledge, PhD

Ann Harris, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School, director of the Human Molecular Genetics Program and the Valerie and George D. Kennedy Research Professor in Human and Molecular Genetics of the research center, and colleagues, have published two papers on elements that interact with the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR). The first, entitled “An insulator element 3’ to the CFTR gene binds CTCF and reveals an active chromatin hub in primary cells” was published in Nucleic Acids Research in January 2009. The first author is Neil Blackledge, PhD, a former graduate student and postdoctoral fellow in the Harris laboratory. The data suggest that the CFTR locus exists in a looped conformation, characteristic of an active chromatin hub.

 Chris Ott
Chris Ott

A second paper published by the Harris lab, entitled “A complex intronic enhancer regulates expression of the CFTR gene by direct interaction with the promoter” was published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in March 2009. The first author is Christopher Ott, a current graduate student in the laboratory. The data provide the first insight into the 3D structure of the CFTR locus and confirm the contribution of intronic cis-acting elements to the regulation of CFTR gene expression.


XenoBase update

The goal of XenoBase in brain tumor study is to assist in the discovery of alterations and processes associated with brain tumor initiation and progression. Because of the heterogeneity and special locations of brain tumors, development of non-invasive diagnostic and prognostic methods is highly desired. The infrastructure provided by XenoBase will enable the integration of molecular data with clinical information, and facilitate the identification of potential markers for better patient stratification as well as drug resistance prediction. XenoBase will implement three levels of queries for brain tumor study: supervised queries that will allow the study of associations of two or more observations; unsupervised queries in which the causal effects of latent variables are examined; and network-based unsupervised queries that allow biological processes and networks to be taken into account.

Currently, XenoBase has successfully interfaced with an in-house brain tumor database system. The previous gene-centric XenoBase model was adapted into region-centric, in order to host a variety of research data from such data types as gene expression, methylation, and structural alterations. Gene expression data analysis has been used as a proof of concept of this adaptation. Methylation data generated in the Soares laboratory have been added to XenoBase, where certain association studies can be performed. Various queries enabled by XenoBase will allow researchers to gain insight into the large-scale datasets generated in the laboratory.

Seconds for Care: Evaluation of Five Health Supervision Visit Topics Using a New Method

This study was conducted to gain understanding of the time it takes and some of the actions that occur to address key preventive topics during pediatric health supervision visits of children between the ages of two and ten years. The authors developed a new method and a tool to help conduct the assessments of five preventive health topics. Read more.


Defining a developmental pathway for medulloblastoma

In the January 2009 issue of the International Journal of Cancer, Joon Won Yoon, PhD, David Walterhouse, MD, and colleagues studied changes in gene expression profiles in cells transformed by a gene that has been shown to be overactive in a subset of medulloblastomas. Read more.

IMBFT model for family therapy

The integrative, module-based family treatment model (IMBFT) developed by Karen R. Gouze, PhD, and Richard Wendel, DMin, provides a formalized series of steps that clinicians can use in their case planning and implementation. It is based on nine clinically relevant modules for assessment and intervention that are consistent with current best practices and empirically supported treatments. Read more.

Novel technique for studying cell cultures

Zoe N. Demou, PhD, has published a study in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering describing a novel technique for studying morphological and molecular dynamics in differentiating 3D cell cultures. A custom-built chamber expands the Veritas laser capture microdissection (LCM) system by enabling time-lapse image acquisition for morphological and topographical mapping of cell cultures. Read more. 

Family-based HIV prevention study of young men who have sex with men

Is it it time for HIV prevention programs for young men who have sex with men to involve families and parents - similar to approaches used for other adolescent/young adult populations? This is the question asked by a team of investigators at Children's Memorial Hospital, Howard Brown Health Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago. HIV surveillance data suggest that in the U.S., the majority of HIV-infected adolescent males and young adult men are infected through having sex with other men. However, there are few intervention efforts targeting this vulnerable population, and no family-based approaches, despite the fact that these approaches have shown promise with other groups of young people. Read more.

Link between prematurity and wheezing revealed

April 15, 2008 — Rajesh Kumar, MD, and colleagues at Children's Memorial have identified a potential link between respiratory problems and premature birth.  Read more. 

Pax3 as regulator

Chandra S.K. Mayanil, PhD, and colleagues have published a study in the journal Developmental Biology that investigates whether the paired-box gene transcription factor, Pax3, plays a role in regulating certain key transcription factors…Read more.


Research on early epicardial development

Robert Dettman, PhD, and colleagues have found that the integrin alpha4beta1 controls many aspects of early epicardial development in the chick heart. It does so in part by regulating other integrins in epicardial cells that are important for cell adhesion and migration. Read more.

Therapies for ODD

John V. Lavigne, PhD, and colleagues tested two types of therapies for Oppositional Defiant Disorder, the most common psychiatric disorder among preschool children. "The findings raise the possibility of developing brief but effective interventions for ODD that can be used by a large number of families, with more intensive treatment being reserved for situations in which the brief treatment is insufficient," Lavigne said. Read more.

Differences in drug administration may affect disease outcome in patients with Juvenile Dermatomyositis

April 5, 2008 — Lauren M. Pachman, MD, and colleagues have published a study that shows a difference in absorption of a drug administered to juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) patients when given orally as opposed to intravenously. Read more.

Protein in human embryonic stem cells controls malignant tumor cells

Groundbreaking work by the Mary J.C. Hendrix laboratory and colleagues is elucidating how a protein that governs development of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) also inhibits the growth and spread of malignant melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer.

Discovering cancer's "molecular switches"

Developmental biologist David Walterhouse, MD, is featured in an article in Children’s Memorial Foundation’s quarterly e-newsletter, Online Update, spotlighting his research on how normal cells receive “signals” that cause them to turn into cancer cells.

Wainwright and colleagues identify gene for cerebral palsy

CHICAGO --- Apolipoprotein E (APOE), a gene associated with heightened risk for Alzheimer's disease in adults, can also increase the likelihood that brain-injured newborns will develop cerebral palsy, researchers at Children's Memorial Research Center have discovered. This is the first identification of a gene that increases susceptibility to cerebral palsy. Results of the study, published in the February 2007 issue of the journal Pediatrics, may enable early identification of children who are at risk for poor neuro-developmental outcome after brain injury as newborns and thus target those children for early therapeutic intervention. The lead scientist on the study was Mark S. Wainwright, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Pediatrics (Neurology) and Molecular Pharmacology and Biological Chemistry at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and the Children's Memorial Research Center. Wainwright is also a researcher in the Center for Drug Discovery and Chemical Biology at Feinberg. Read more.

Anne H. Rowley, MD

Zeroing in on a cause for Kawasaki disease

In an important discovery in infectious disease research, a team of scientists from Children’s Memorial Research Center and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine has identified a possible viral cause of Kawasaki disease, the most common cause of acquired heart disease in children in developed nations.

Kawasaki disease is a serious pediatric illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels and can cause damage to coronary arteries. Investigators have suspected an infectious cause, but, until now, none has been identified. Results of the new study suggest a single viral cause that enters through the respiratory system and infects the bronchi of children.

The research group was led by Anne H. Rowley, MD, attending physician in Children’s Memorial Hospital’s Division of Infectious Disease, and professor of pediatrics and of microbiology/immunology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.



 Catherine Drerup Catherine Drerup, Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program (NUIN) graduate student in the laboratory of Jill Morris, PhDHuman Molecular Genetics Program of the research center, defended her thesis on February 13, 2009. The title of her talk was “Cloning, characterization, and functional analysis of the zebrafish Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1 ortholog.” Drerup has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at Oregon Health and Science University in the laboratory of Alex Nechiporuk, PhD.
  Shih-Hsing Leir, PhD, postdoctoral scientist in the laboratory of Ann Harris, PhDHuman Molecular Genetics Program of the research center and the Department of Pediatrics at the Feinberg School, was awarded a grant from the Katten Muchin Roseman Travel Scholarship Program of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, to attend the American Association of Cancer Research 100th meeting in Denver, April 18-23, 2009.

 Troy Camarata Troy Camarata, graduate student in the laboratory of Hans-Georg Simon, PhD, Developmental Biology Program, defended his thesis on Nov 19, 2008 and received his diploma from Northwestern University in December. The title of his thesis was “Pdlim7 regulates nuclear/cytoplasmic localization and activity of Tbx5 during cardiac development”. Camarata will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, focusing on progenitor cells in the adult kidney for therapeutic approaches in acute and chronic kidney disease.
 Katharine Hardy Katharine M. Hardy, PhD, has joined Mary Hendrix’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow. She will be examining how the reactivation of embryonic pathways influences the plasticity of aggressive melanoma, with particular emphasis on nodal signaling. Hardy obtained her MS in Gerontology and her doctorate in Cell Biology and Anatomy from the University of Arizona, Tucson in 2003 and 2008, respectively. Her master’s research concentrated on the cellular trafficking pathway of the protein product of the glaucoma gene known as Myocilin, in the trabecular meshwork of the eye. Her doctoral thesis focused on the regulation of cell behavior by multiple signaling pathways during the early developmental process of avian gastrulation.
 Tyler Schwend Tyler Schwend, graduate student in the laboratory of Sara Ahlgren, PhD, Developmental Biology Program, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Individual Predoctoral Fellows from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. His award is entitled “Sonic hedgehog signaling in zebrafish branchial arch development”. The research will seek to delineate the signaling mechanism whereby the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) pathway promotes zebrafish skeletal development in the branchial arches (jaw and gills) of the fish. Human craniofacial diseases arise from the misregulation of the Shh signaling pathway during early development; a better understanding of its temporal and spatial regulation will be fundamental in helping to explain phenotypic variation in the human disease state.


Cantu and Kerschner selected for CMBD Training Grant

Jorge Cantu (graduate student in the laboratory of Jacek Topczewski, PhD, Developmental Biology Program) and Jenny Kerschner (graduate student in the laboratory of Ann Harris, PhD, Human Molecular Genetics Program) have been selected as trainees for the Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease Training Program at Northwestern University. The CMBD, funded through the National Institutes of Health, Institute of General Medical Sciences, is an interdisciplinary and cross-campus program that provides state-of-the-art training in the cellular and molecular sciences for highly qualified predoctoral candidates.


 student_news Colleen Morrison, MD, completed medical school at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and a residency in Pediatrics at Loyola University Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital. She is in the second year of a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplant at Children’s Memorial, and has joined Mary J.C. Hendrix’s laboratory to complete her fellowship. Read more.
 student_news Postdoctoral fellow Barbara Sisson, PhD, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows (F32) from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH. The title of the grant is “The role of RhoA and its targets in craniofacial cartilage morphogenesis.” Read more.
 Meyer_InTouch Kate Meyer, graduate student in the laboratory of Jill Morris, PhD, is first author on a paper published in the September 2008 issue of Gene Expression Patterns, entitled “Immunohistochemical analysis of Disc1 expression in the developing and adult hippocampus.” Read more.
 Tbx5 Andre Kulisz, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Hans-Georg Simon, PhD, is first author of a study suggesting that the T-box transcription factor, Tbx5, uses a mechanism for protein relocalization that evolved early, thus setting a new paradigm for T-box protein functions during developmental and disease processes.  Read more.
  Jennifer Krcmery from the laboratory of Hans-Georg Simon, PhD, was one of three graduate students invited to present at the 7th Annual Cardiovascular Developmental Biology Symposium at the Medical University of South Carolina, March 19–21. Read more.
Troy Camarata, a graduate student in the Simon laboratory, was awarded a platform presentation entitled “Tbx5 subcellular regulation by LMP4 during pectoral fin development” at the Experimental Biology meeting held April 5–9 in San Diego. Read more.

Christina Khodr, PhD, and Qin Chang, PhD, each presented research at the 11th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Gene Therapy in May, in Boston. Read more.

Camarata awarded AHA fellowship

Troy Camarata

The Greater Midwest Affiliate Research Committee of the American Heart Association (AHA) has awarded Troy Camarata with a Predoctoral Fellowship for his proposal entitled “Regulation of Tbx5 during cardiac formation by Lmp4”. The AHA Predoctoral Fellowship program is a competitive award and provides tuition support as well as funding for laboratory supplies for a period of two years. Troy is a Northwestern University graduate student in the Integrated Graduate Program and conducts his graduate thesis work in the laboratory of Dr. Hans-Georg Simon at Children’s Memorial Research Center. Employing chicken and zebrafish models, the Simon lab is studying limb and heart development and genetic disorders as they relate to human birth defects.

Back to the top of the page