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Chief Scientific Officer, PolicyLab Report, Risky Driving, Epilepsy, and HIV

Published on June 11, 2021 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 5 months 3 weeks ago


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In the News


By Emily Shafer

In this week’s roundup of research news, find out more about the Research Institutes’ new Chief Scientific Officer, Susan L. Furth, MD, PhD. Continue on to learn about PolicyLab’s first annual Impact Report. Round out the news this week with CHOP studies about young adults and risky driving, harnessing “big data” to improve epilepsy outcomes, and how HIV affects white matter in the brain.

Susan L. Furth Appointed as Chief Scientific Officer

The CHOP Research Institutes welcomed Susan L. Furth, MD, PhD, as the Chief Scientific Officer June 1. In this role, Dr. Furth will oversee the Research Institutes and continue CHOP’s commitment to groundbreaking science that translates into innovation and improvement in children’s health. She succeeds Bryan Wolf, MD, PhD, who will retire at the end of June.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Furth into this new role,” said Madeline Bell, President and CEO of CHOP. “In addition to her scientific achievements, which have been recognized globally, she is also an outstanding mentor who has helped younger researchers develop their careers. Combined, these skills will be invaluable in supporting the Research Institute fulfill CHOP’s mission of delivering exceptional clinical care, research, and education.”

Dr. Furth has been with CHOP since 2010 and served as vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics and chief of the Division of Nephrology. She is a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She has conducted extensive research in pediatric kidney disease and has a passion for mentoring junior researchers. Learn more about Dr. Furth’s background and new role in a CHOP press release.

PolicyLab Releases First Annual Impact Report

PolicyLab released its first annual Impact Report, highlighting the center’s work to improving children’s health and well-being during the past year.

“Throughout this difficult year, our team of researchers and policy and communications professionals came together to conduct and disseminate research that was responsive to the moment, implement programs to address families’ needs, and provide policy support to leaders nationwide,” said David Rubin, MD, MSCE, director of PolicyLab. “Collaborating with our Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia colleagues, partners, funders and the local community has been vital in these efforts, expanding our reach here in Philadelphia and beyond.”

The report highlights a Joint Pilot Grant Program funded by PolicyLab, research on early childhood sleep interventions, student researchers, a “Morning Speaker Series” focused on ongoing research, and the release of the 2020 Pennsylvania Family Support Needs Assessment. Find out more information about these topics, and much more, in the report.

Cell Phone Use While Driving Linked to Other Risky Driving Behaviors

Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center found that young adults who use cell phones while driving are also more likely to engage in other risky driving behaviors associated with “acting-without-thinking,” a form of impulsivity. The findings appeared in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

For the retrospective study, 384 young drivers across the U.S. completed an online survey measuring risky driving practices and history of crashes and impulse-related personality traits. The researchers found that 44.5% of drivers reported a history of at least one crash, and 73% reported cell phone use while driving. In addition, those who used cell phones while driving were also more likely to participate in other risky driving behaviors, including ignoring speeding limits, aggressively passing vehicles, and running red lights.

“This study found that frequent cell phone use while driving was only one indicator of a more general pattern of risky driving practices associated with prior crashes in young drivers,” said lead study author Elizabeth Walshe, PhD, a research scientist at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP “Assessment of personality traits, such as impulsivity and sensation seeking, may be helpful to identify drivers most at risk, in order to provide more targeted interventions promoting safe driving.”

Learn more about the study in the CHOP press release.

CHOP Researchers Use ‘Big Data’ to Assess Seizure Burden and Improve Outcomes in Epilepsy

Researchers at CHOP found that using standardized reporting of clinical data for seizures caused by various neurological disorders provides fundamental baseline information that can determine the best methods to keep seizures under control. The findings appeared in Epilepsia.

The team at CHOP used common data elements to ensure relevant data were captured across almost 1,700 visits across the CHOP Network by more than 1,000 individual patients with childhood epilepsies. With these data elements, the researchers were able to quantify absolute seizure burden and changes in seizure burden over time. They also could determine differences in seizure burden between various epilepsy syndromes.

“For those of us who treat pediatric epilepsy patients, we are constantly trying to assess how we’re doing and how we can improve outcomes for our patients,” said Mark P. Fitzgerald, MD, PhD, a pediatric neurologist in the Division of Neurology at CHOP, and the study’s first author. “This study provides us with fundamental data that will serve as the foundation for how we treat our patients and inform how we achieve the best patient-centered outcomes possible.”

Learn more about the study in the CHOP press release.

Researchers Discover How HIV Affects White Matter in the Brain

In a new study, researchers from CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania discovered the mechanism behind white matter loss in the brain among people with HIV. The findings appeared in the journal Glia.

The research team previously found that the white matter loss, which is associated with cognitive impairment, is associated with antiretroviral therapy for HIV, but they were unable to discern how much of the white matter loss was attributed to the therapy vs. the virus itself. In this study, they found that HIV prevents myelin-making brain cells called oligodendrocytes from maturing, which impacts the white matter production. The researchers identified ways to block these mechanisms and allow white matter production to resume.

“When people think about the brain, they think of neurons, but they often don’t think about white matter, as important as it is,” said Judith B. Grinspan, PhD, a research scientist at CHOP and a professor of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “But it’s clear that myelination is playing key roles in various stages of life: in infancy, in adolescence, and likely during learning in adulthood too. The more we find out about this biology, the more we can do to prevent white matter loss and the harms that can cause.”

Find out more about the study in the CHOP press release.


Catch up on our headlines from our May 28 In the News:

  • CIRP Blog Discusses Staying Alert While Self-Driving
  • Researchers Discover New Genetic Variants Behind Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Chan Zuckerburg Initiative Features CHOP Scientists
  • Minds Matter Teams Up to Develop Concussion Wearable

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