Chen, Silva win grants for pediatric research

Hong Chen and Jon Silva, both assistant professors of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, have received $450,000 grants for research into pediatric diseases from the Children's Discovery Institute (CDI).

The grants were part of 13 grants totaling more than $3.7 million recently awarded by the CDI, a partnership between the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis and St. Louis Children's Hospital.

Chen, also assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the School of Medicine, and her co-investigator Yongjian Liu, assistant professor of radiology at the School of Medicine, plan to test the effectiveness and safety of a new treatment for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, the greatest cause of brain tumor-related deaths in children. The team will test the effectiveness and safety of using focused ultrasound to temporarily and noninvasively open the blood-brain barrier, which prevents most drugs from reaching brain tissue, enough so that very small nanoclusters loaded with both an imaging agent and chemotherapy drugs can penetrate the tumor, allowing physicians to perform image-guided therapy.

Silva will team with co-investigator and wife Jennifer Silva, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and director of pediatric electrophysiology at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Together, they seek to test specially designed goggles that project a 3-D hologram of a patient's heart, giving the cardiologists a better line of sight into the heart. The technology will be used in the St. Louis Children's Hospital Heart Center cardiac electrophysiology and catheterization lab, where patients undergo procedures for heart rhythm abnormalities and congenital heart defects.

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