For doctors treating newborns suffering from pediatric dysphagia, a chronic condition related to feeding and swallowing, a solution may soon be available. With $6.2 million in program project grant funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), an interdisciplinary group of researchers from GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and Children’s National Health System will search for a cure.
“Our combined expertise in circuit function, cranial and facial development, and genetics, along with our ability to creatively come together and [our] strong institutional support, makes this team the ideal group to meet this challenge,” said Anthony-Samuel LaMantia, Ph.D., director of the GW Institute for Neuroscience, and professor of pharmacology and physiology at SMHS. “Working together over the last several years, we have become incredibly committed to solving this major clinical issue and biological mystery.”
Currently, dysphagia occurs in 35 to 80 percent of newborns with neurodevelopmental disorders. Those affected display malnutrition, acute choking, food aspiration, an inability to gain weight, and naso-sinus–, middle ear–, and lung aspiration–related infections, including pneumonia. Right now, treatments focus on symptom relief alone, and there are no preventative strategies.
In order to seek an effective solution, the team, after developing the first valid model for pediatric dysphagia, will use a three-pronged approach to provide a fundamental understanding of the disorder by defining its pathology, its developmental origins, and possible strategies for prevention.