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How does a heart defect start? Stanford scientists use stem cells to find out

For years, pediatric cardiologists have been trying to understand the origin of a puzzling congenital defect that creates a spongy texture in the heart muscle wall. Now, Stanford researchers have shown that they can use stem cell techniques to turn donated skin and blood cells from real patients into a useful tool for figuring out how the disease gets started.

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Extra chemo drugs don’t improve treatment of rare bone cancer

A large clinical trial, published today in The Lancet Oncology, should spare young people with a rare bone cancer from the side effects of too much chemotherapy. Current treatments for osteosarcoma, a malignant bone tumor that usually affects teenagers, are less effective than doctors would like, so in recent years they’ve sometimes added extra chemotherapy drugs to the standard regimen.

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Breaking down stigma: 5 things to know about our Adolescent Mental Wellness Conference

In response to the growing need for mental health resources for Bay Area adolescents and children, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford is joining the Stanford School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services and Pediatrics Division of Adolescent Medicine to host the first annual Adolescent Mental Wellness Conference on August 5 and 6 at the South San Francisco Conference Center.

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Bottle size may help explain extra weight gain in bottle-fed babies

Scientists who study childhood obesity often wonder how excess weight gain in kids can be prevented. Some experts suggest that prevention efforts should start in infancy, since formula-fed infants grow faster than those who are exclusively breast-fed. A study published this month in Pediatrics adds an interesting twist to the debate: The researchers found that babies fed with larger bottles between 2 and 6 months of age gained more weight.

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Eating disorders in college athletes highlighted in NBC Bay Area story

Years ago, as a college varsity swimmer, I was surprised when one of my teammates told me she had struggled with an eating disorder. I knew this was a common problem in sports such as gymnastics and figure skating, where an athlete’s appearance is constantly judged, but had assumed – wrongly – that a sport where speed trumped glamour would confer protection against disordered eating.

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New Stanford research offers hope for faster autism diagnosis

What’s the first step in getting help for a child who may have autism? Discouragingly, the answer is often “A long wait.” But Stanford systems biologist Dennis Wall, PhD, wants to change that. His research team is using a big-data approach to devise simple questionnaires that enable parents and primary-care doctors to screen children for developmental disorders using a mobile device.

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Shaping a Brighter Future

In medicine we often refer to the “natural history of disease”— the normal course that a disease takes in an individual if no treatment occurs. In the case of congenital heart disease, the “natural history” was often death or, at best, survival with significant limitations. Fortunately, that history has changed.

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New cystic fibrosis screening test developed at Stanford

Stanford researchers have invented a new technique to detect cystic fibrosis in infants. The test, described in a paper published today in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, is more comprehensive, faster and cheaper than current newborn screening methods.

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Surgery to find your voice: A Q&A with a pediatric otolaryngologist

When we’re in a noisy restaurant, it’s really difficult to hear my young niece speak. She can only talk very quietly, because she has a paralyzed vocal cord. But Stanford’s Anna Messner, MD, is bringing hope to kids like her via a rare surgery that attaches more nerve fibers to the affected vocal cord.

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Stanford ingenuity + big data = new insight into the ADHD brain

Attention-focusing brain networks interact more weakly than usual in kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, new Stanford research shows. The research, published online this week in Biological Psychiatry, is part of an ongoing effort to figure out how the brain differs from normal in people with ADHD.

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Newly identified gene mutation explains why one family experiences unusual pain response to cold

If you’ve ever plunged your hand into a tub of ice water, you know about the overlap between cold and pain: That deep, biting ache makes you want to get your hand out of the water – fast. While the protective value of that sensation is obvious, scientists have always been a bit mystified by how pain-sensing nerves register cold temperatures. But now, Stanford research on a family with an extremely unusual gene mutation may help clarify what’s going on.

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Cure is not enough for young cancer survivors

People that survive cancer at a young age are expected to live many decades after diagnosis and treatment, so they are the most vulnerable population to long-term damaging effects from cancer therapy. Stanford’s Karen Effinger, MD, MS, and Michael Link, MD, explore this issue in an editorial published today in JAMA Oncology.

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Helping kids with chronic medical conditions make the jump to adult care

Specialists who treat chronically ill adolescents have long recognized the challenges related to this patient population: Young adults may be grown in body, but they aren’t always ready psychologically or socially to take full responsibility for consistently following complicated medical routines and practicing lifestyle restrictions. Nor are most adult care doctors trained in the after-effects of childhood cancer, for instance, or the lifelong need to monitor adults with childhood heart repairs.

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A family’s story changes the science of a rare tumor

When Danah Jewett’s 5-year-old son, Dylan, was dying from a brain tumor in 2008, she wanted to know if there was anything her family could do to help other children who might someday face the same terrible diagnosis. Yes, said Dylan’s doctor, Michelle Monje, MD, PhD: Would you be willing to donate his tumor for cancer research after his death?

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From A to ZZZZs: The trouble with teen sleep

Teenagers who don’t sleep enough pay a heavy price, potentially compromising their physical and mental health. Study after study in the medical literature sounds the alarm over what can go wrong when teens suffer chronic sleep deprivation: drowsy driving incidents, poor academic performance, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and even suicide attempts. “I think high school is the real danger spot in terms of sleep deprivation,” says Stanford sleep expert William Dement, MD, PhD. “It’s a huge problem.”

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Helping newborns through song

Instead of drugs or fancy devices, a small village in India is using dhollak and dafali — drums traditional to the region — to spread awareness about post-natal care and to battle infant mortality. The effort started as part of a public-health research project led by Stanford global health expert Gary Darmstadt, MD.

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The rocket men and their breathtaking invention

It’s a gadget straight out of Star Trek — a breath analyzer that may someday quickly and noninvasively detect everything from diabetes to cancers. In a new Stanford Medicine magazine story, you can read about how three Stanford rocket-combustion experts designed and tested a Breathalyzer-like device to measure toxic ammonia levels in critically ill children, all in about a year.

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Stanford Medicine magazine tells why a healthy childhood matters

I’ve forgotten most of my childhood experiences – which is perfectly normal. But apparently my body remembers many of those experiences – and I learned while editing the new Stanford Medicine magazine that’s normal too. The fall issue’s special report, “Childhood: The road ahead,” is full of stories of researchers realizing the impact early experiences can have on adult health. Some of their discoveries are surprising.

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Rare gene variants help explain preemies’ lung disease, Stanford study shows

Because they’re born before their lungs are fully mature, premature babies are at risk for a serious lung disease. Over the last several decades, this disease, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, has evolved into both a great medical success story and a persistent mystery. But a new Stanford study, published this week, is helping clarify the mysterious part.

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Stanford doctors unraveling mysterious childhood psychiatric disease

A story in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal highlights Stanford’s leadership in treating a mystifying disease in which a child suddenly develops intense psychiatric problems, often after an infection. The disease, called pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome, can be terribly disabling, altering kids’ personalities, interfering with their school work and making it hard for families to function.

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Study validates oxytocin levels in blood and suggests oxytocin may be a biomarker of anxiety

To conduct research on the connection between oxytocin and emotion, scientists want to assess the hormone’s levels in the brain. But sampling cerebrospinal fluid, the liquid bathing the brain, requires an invasive technique called a lumbar puncture. Measuring blood oxytocin is much easier, but some researchers have questioned whether blood oxytocin levels truly reflect what’s happening in the brain.

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Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos Extend a $2.25 Million Challenge Grant to Fund Innovative Clinical Food Allergy Research at Stanford

Groundbreaking food allergy research at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has received a major boost through the creation of a challenge grant by Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. Severe food allergies are a growing epidemic, with rates having doubled in the last decade. One out of every 13 children is affected, and over 30 percent are thought to have allergies to more than one food.

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New study shows standardization makes hospital hand-offs safer

A study published online this week in Pediatrics offers encouraging results from a large-scale effort to tackle a persistent safety problem in hospitals. The study is the first scientific investigation of a multi-hospital project to improve patient hand-offs, the times when a patient’s care is being transferred from one person to another.

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Side effects of childhood vaccines are extremely rare, new study finds

As you may have heard about elsewhere, a new paper published today on the safety of childhood vaccines provides reassurance for parents and pediatricians that side effects from vaccination are rare and mostly transient. The paper, a meta-analysis appearing in Pediatrics, updates a 2011 Institute of Medicine report on childhood vaccine safety. It analyzed the results of 67 safety studies of vaccines used in the United States for children aged 6 and younger.

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New research shows how to keep diabetics safer during sleep

Life with type 1 diabetes requires an astonishing number of health-related decisions – about 180 per day. But patients’ vigilant monitoring of their daytime blood sugar, food intake, insulin and activity levels is perhaps less exhausting than the worries they face about getting a safe night’s sleep.