Research stories

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute is full of stories — from the incredible kids who inspire our work to the dedicated scientists who are on a mission to discover new and better treatments for pediatric diseases. Go inside the labs of some of our top researchers to learn about the latest research in cancer, heart care, diabetes and more.

An easier, more accurate way to predict transplant rejection

For patients who’ve had a heart transplant, the first post-operative year is filled with as many as a dozen biopsies to check for rejection of the donor organ. It’s expensive, stressful, painful — and the biopsies of a single sample of tissue don’t always catch rejection underway in other parts of the heart. But a new approach developed by a research team led by cardiothoracic surgeon Michael Mitchell, MD, and Aoy Tomita-Mitchell, PhD, at Children’s Research Institute could dramatically change the way that doctors predict transplant rejection, and it’s as easy as a blood test. Read more.

Creating new tools to fight the toughest cancers

How do you outsmart the toughest-to-treat cancers? You drill down to the genetics of not only the patient but also his or her cancer cells so you can deliver powerful, personalized care. You train bone marrow cells before transplantation so that they’re programmed to resist deadly infections. You study how the disease and treatment really impact the child and the family so you can maximize everyone’s quality of life. Thanks to a $10 million gift from the MACC Fund, these and other exciting areas of pediatric cancer research will continue to advance at the MACC Fund Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Read more.

Understanding the role of gut bacteria and disease

The human body contains a mind-boggling 10 times more bacteria than it does human cells. For most people, the immune system protects against this army of bacterial invaders without leading to constant inflammation. Understanding how that process works — and when it doesn’t — could be the key to new treatments for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. That’s the focus of Nita Salzman, MD, PhD, a pediatric gastroenterology researcher who co-leads the Immunology, Inflammation and Infection unit for Children’s Research Institute. Read more.

Decreasing bleeding risks in the operating room

When an infant undergoes open-heart surgery, doctors don’t know how the baby’s blood clotting system will react. In about 20 percent of cases, bleeding can become a serious problem. Now a new multiyear study, led by D. Woodrow Benson, MD, PhD, director of research at the Herma Heart Center, and James Tweddel, MD, medical director of Cardiothoracic Surgery, aims to better predict potential blood clotting problems and customize care in the operating room. Read more.

Detecting and preventing juvenile diabetes

By the time a child shows obvious symptoms of juvenile diabetes, 80 percent of his or her pancreatic beta cells — critical to producing insulin — are destroyed or damaged by the autoimmune response directed against them. And as of now, there is no cure. But researchers at the Max McGee National Research Center for Juvenile Diabetes have developed a novel, cutting-edge approach that can detect inflammation associated with type 1 diabetes up to seven years before the disease emerges clinically — and that also has implications for a host of other autoimmune diseases. Read more.