Giving thanks for things that matter

by Vector staff on November 21, 2012

(WishUponACupcake/Flickr)

At this Thanksgiving, we’d like to pause in appreciation of our researchers and innovators who work hard to find answers and build better lives for patients. We extend an equal thanks to the foundations, donors, investors, companies—and you, the public—who support their work.

Not everything we discuss here on Vector makes a big public splash. Most of these discoveries won’t bring a clinician or scientist fame or fortune. Nonetheless, these projects matter.

Among many, many efforts at Boston Children’s, we’re thankful:

…for having the technology and dedicated experts to solve some of the toughest genetic mysteries on the planet. Diseases like CLOVES and rare forms of epilepsy may seem arcane, but could open the door to treatments and to understanding more common, related diseases. Progeria—whose genetic cause was found just a decade ago—is a case in point: We now have a drug showing benefit in a clinical trial, and some lessons for aging in general.

…for physicians who aren’t content with current labels, taking common diseases like medulloblastoma (the most common malignant childhood brain tumor) and discovering different kinds of disease behind the name, based on genetic patterns.

…for the CLARITY Challenge, which has taken the first steps toward setting standards for using DNA sequencing in responsibly in day-to-day medicine.

… for the dedicated clinicians and trainers who worried about potential quality-of-care problems arising from miscommunications during hospital shift changes. They created I-PASS, a standardized patient “handoff” protocol, and saw medical errors fall by 40 percent—plus, doctors logged nearly twice as much time with their patients.

… for researchers like Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, who’s committed to improving detection and treatment of sepsis in premature newborns and runs one of the few labs in the world that seeks to understand newborns’ immune responses. Or Larry Benowitz, PhD, who has worked tirelessly to regenerate damaged optic nerves—tweaking and combining different strategies and at last restoring some elements of vision in a mouse model.

…for surgeons like Sitaram Emani, MD, who are always looking for better ways to fix children’s broken hearts, like replacement heart valves that can be expanded as a baby grows.

…for zebrafish, what they teach us about ourselves and the treatments they help us find. Like ways to make more blood-forming stem cells for cord blood stem cell transplants.

…for engineers like Donald Ingber, MD, PhD, and his team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering  who look at how nature works and turn that knowledge into new treatments and devices. Like a new way to deliver clot-busting drugs in patients with heart attacks or strokes, found by manipulating the way a clot gets formed in the first place.

…for Twitter, Facebook and all the data out there on the web, and “web kids” like John Brownstein, PhD, who use that information to revolutionize public health, sounding early warnings of emerging outbreaks and more.

…to be in healthcare at a time of rapid changes and advances—not just in the science, but in delivery models like telemedicine and mobile apps. There’s more work to be done, but we feel good that we’re on the right path.

And finally, we’re thankful for you, dear readers, for choosing to spend your time with us at Vector. From ours to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

Are there research discoveries or innovations, new treatments or devices, for which you’re thankful this holiday? Tell us about them in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter

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