What medical advancements have really been substantive enough to save the lives of our children in the future? This is an inquiry members of the American academy of pediatrics have been asking themselves, the answer however was published last week in the journal pediatrics.
“We thought about the next 40 years and what fields of study might lead to great medical achievements,” said co-author Dr. Tina Cheng, the Director of the department of pediatrics at John Hopkins Hospital.
7 great achievements in Pediatric Research:
1. More childhood immunizations
The American Academy of pediatrics really supports routine vaccinations as one of the best ways to shield infants from dangerous diseases. two great examples are rotavirus and Haemophilus influenza type b (HIB) a leading cause of bacterial meningitis.
Before vaccines were developed, rotavirus killed roughly 450,000 children worldwide each year, while in the united states HIB killed over 1,200 children annually.
“We’d had incredible success” Said Cheng. “A lot of residents in training have never seen tetanus, influenza and polio but there are always new and emerging diseases, and even some of the vaccines we have need to be better”
2. Cancer immunotherapy ‘moonshot’
“We need to find an innovation that can really make a difference with childhood cancer, and immunotherapy may be the next great thing, the sort of ‘moonshot’ we need,” Cheng said.
The use of one’s immune system to objectively target cancer cells is groundbreaking research that has a lot of potential. While most of the research today is focused on adults, it’s also expected to be extremely beneficial to childhood cancer treatment, especially since cancer is notoriously hard to treat.
“Immunotherapy is booming right now and that’s why we picked it,” said Bogue (a co-author of the study). “But children are often left out of that research. One reason is safety issues, but they are also a very small market for pharmaceutical companies.
3. Genomic testing
As studies about our human genome continue to grow, so will their ability to determine genetic mutations and test for them “prenatally, at birth, and throughout the life course”, said the committee, which will hopefully permit us to predict, diagnose and stop disease.
“Right now when you have a baby, she gets a heel stick for a few drops of blood and they test for a host of genetic conditions that if found early, can be much more treatable,” said Cheng.
“30% of disease in young infants and children is due to a genetic disorder and that’s just based on the small number of genes we have identified and confirmed to date,” added Bogue.
He points out that as studies on the human genome continue to happen, it will get easier and cheaper to collect information, take it to the lab and find out how and why a mutations causes disease and how science can intervene.
“That’s the big promise in genomic information,” Bogue said. “We can not only tell parents what their child has, but also why and even come up with new treatments.”
4. Early Interventions
Wouldn’t you want to know as a child if you might get heart disease or cancer later in life?
“Many adult diseases are present in childhood,” claimed Bogue, “and follow a pathway that may take years to develop. “While research on the genome progresses, we are starting to be able to show what factors are truly triggers that can flip a disease into action.
“For example, science is beginning to show that young adults who develop schizophrenia may have had brain abnormalities as infants,” explained Bogue. “So we can now begin to predict and intervene before the disease becomes severe.
5. Impact of behavior, social and environmental factors
It is well known that our exposure towards toxic chemicals in the environment have been known to effect a child’s development. For example, a parent’s exposure to heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic and lead are known to lower IQ and other psychological disorders for their children.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are multiple behavioral and social ways that can possibly hinder a child’s potential. The argument looks at maternal malnutrition and other tensions as well as childhood exposure to violence as a factor that can “clearly re-program a variety of gene interactions”
“Even interactions that parents have with their child, such as reading to them versus propping them in front of a TV,” said Bogue,” can have a huge impact on their child’s development. We need to focus on those factors as well.”
6. Improving our systems of care
According to researchers at John Hopkins, The third most common cause of death in the united states is not disease. In fact 251,000 deaths each year are attributed to medical errors by health care providers. The AAP committee thinks that the advances in service among health care will be a huge area of growth that will definitely have a huge influence on children’s health in the future
“We’re not talking on the individual level, but improving health care itself,” said Cheng. “If we decrease medical errors and provide the same highest quality of care every time we see a patient, we will save lives.”
“It’s about systems of care,” agreed Bogue. “How do we engineer the care we deliver so that it gives us better outcomes? And oddly it often ends up being cheaper.”
Increasing Global access to care
In today’s world, many children do not have proper access to the basics of proper health care, such as clean water, food and medical supplies. Nearly one in five children have not yet received routine immunizations. So you can just imagine that they have not received many of the advancements that have occurred in the last 40 years.
“Knowing that intervention A reduces disease B by 90% is great medicine” said Bogue, but how do you really implement each form of science so healthcare providers and even whole countries are doing it?
“It can take years for those breakthroughs to become standard practice,” he explained. “We need to markedly shorten time frame from knowing when it works to putting it into practice so that people can benefit from it.”
Will these seven advancements be definite for the future? The answer is no according to the authors.
“It’s true we can’t really predict what comes next, but we need to be thinking about it and where are we going,” said Cheng. “The take home message here is that pediatric research has led to improved life expectancy and there are emerging diseases and issues we need to combat. We just want to start the conversation.”