Survival rates for burn victims have improved dramatically over the past 40 years because of burn research. Doctors and scientists at Shriners Hospitals are responsible for many of the advances in pediatric burn care. Studies underway encompass everything from how the body reacts to severe stress to diagnostic tools that can be used at the bedside when treating critically injured children. Current studies may one day:
- Pinpoint the cause of internal organ failure in burn victims and justify the use of anti-retroviral drugs to improve the survival rate
- Allow doctors to use genetic testing to predict the safest and most effective anti-inflammatory therapies for individual children
- Continuously evaluate the use of fluid and drug therapies in critically-ill children
- Mitigate environmental factors that slow the recovery of children after severe burns
Current studies include the following:
Individual Response to Drugs: Steroids and related anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly administered to children with burns, asthma, and other life-threatening disorders, but there are widespread variations in how children respond to these drugs. David Greenhalgh, M.D., Chief of Burns, and his team use human blood specimens to determine the genetic basis of these variable drug responses. Their work on genetic tests may predict the safest and most effective anti-inflammatory therapies for individual children.
Organ Failure: One of the most pressing questions in burn care is why an injury to the skin, an external organ, causes internal organ failure. Kiho Cho, D.V.M., Ph.D., thinks the answer may lie within the viruses – or retroviruses – all humans carry in their genome. Normally inactive and harmless viruses may activate in children with burns or other severe stresses, leading to impaired gene function and fatal organ failure. Dr. Cho is testing how often this occurs in burn patients. His studies may justify the use of anti-retroviral drugs to improve survival of severely burned children.
Environmental Influences: Tina Palmieri, M.D., Assistant Chief of Burns, crafts strategies to mitigate environmental factors that slow the recovery of children after severe burns.
Bedside Diagnostics: Soman Sen, M.D., formulates diagnostic tools that can be sued on critically burned children to evaluate their heart and kidney function. His research will enable continuous evaluation of the clinical appropriateness of the fluid and drug therapies.