Children’s Hospital Los Angeles receives $2million grant to address adverse childhood experiences

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has received a $2million grant from the state of California to study a precision medicine approach to screening children for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

ACEs are potentially traumatic events that have happened early in life, including neglect, racism, abuse, and more. These experiences can lead to children being at risk for developmental delays, as well as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and mental illness later in life.

In the press release, Lead Principal Investigator Pat Levitt, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Vice President and Director of The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Simms/Mann Chair in Developmental Neurogenetics, said, “”Excessive adverse childhood experiences can cause toxic stress in children, and many studies have shown this may have lifelong consequences for health challenges, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and mental illnesses.

“To improve outcomes for these children, we need to identify those at greatest risk as early as possible, because early interventions promote the best outcomes.”

A potential new screening method will be studied by the team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, that will combine a questionnaire –  the Pediatric ACEs Screening and Related Life Events Screener (PEARLS) – with development of a novel lab test that measures potential disturbances to critical cell structures called mitochondria, which are responsible for producing energy for cells to function normally.

The biomarker measures mitochondrial allostatic load (MAL). The group aims to show that MAL measures are a “red flag warning” for toxic stress in infants.

“We believe this multi pronged approach will improve our understanding of the mitochondrial stress associated with ACEs, and will ultimately lead to a cost-effective test that could be readily adopted by pediatricians across the state,” says Co-Investigator Xiaowu Gai, PhD, Director of Bioinformatics for the Center for Personalized Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

The team aims to recruit 300 mother-baby pairs into the study from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles/AltaMed Health Services general pediatrics community clinic.

The two-decade partnership between Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and AltaMed has brought pediatric expertise to the care of children in local communities. AltaMed, one of the largest federally qualified health centers in the U.S., delivers care to medically underserved families across Southern California.

Read more about the study and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles here.

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