In 2021, our most significant published pediatric studies concerned diabetes, liver conditions, cancer and blood disorders, among others.

The scientific community of the Pediatric Research Center comprises more than 30 research teams spanning a wide range of pediatric medicine. The community produces a dozen doctoral dissertations and more than 300 peer reviewed scientific articles each year. Our researchers are granted an average of 70 research permits each year. 

“At the Pediatric Research Center, we engage in pediatric research at a high level and across a wide range. We also provide career support for research physicians in pediatrics for international networking and training, and we promote awareness of research in society at large by publicizing our newest research findings actively,” says Professor Taneli Raivio, Head Physician of the Pediatric Research Center. Our research outcomes in 2021 included these: 

New rare hereditary lack of leukocyte function that leads to a deadly inflammatory condition

The life of a newborn Finn was saved with an urgent stem cell transplantation after the cause of the patient’s severe general infection was found through close collaboration between Helsinki, Oulu, Karolinska Insitutet and the Medical University of Vienna. The researchers described a new, recessively inherited immunodeficiency caused by RhoG protein deficiency. This study was only just published in Blood, the most distinguished journal in the field of blood disorders.

“Before this, four familial HLH disorders were known. We discovered a new one caused by changes in the RhoG gene and were able to demonstrate that RhoG was the missing link in granule secretion regulation that guides the granules to the appropriate locations on the cell membrane,” explains Docent Mikko Seppänen.

Surfaces of nasal mucosa in neonates have a scarce number of adhesion receptors for coronavirus

Newborn babies have fewer receptors for coronavirus on the mucous membranes in their nose than adults do. This may partly explain why neonatal coronavirus infections are so rare.

“Our study sheds light on why newborn babies only rarely contract a coronavirus infection and often remain unaffected even when their mother has it. When newborn babies do contract a coronavirus infection, it is usually mild. However, in the case of all other respiratory infections they tend to be more severely affected than adults,” says Specialist Santtu Heinonen.

Parental warmth protects young persons against criminal and psychopathic tendencies

Parental warmth reduces the incidence of psychopathic traits and criminal tendencies as far as adolescence. Parental hostility, on the other hand, reinforces psychopathic traits and criminal behavior.

“Even if an adolescent has progressed disadvantageously, all is not lost. Young people’s brains are still in a process of adaptation, so connecting with a safe adult or being in an intimate relationship supportive of personal development can change a young individual. Identifying various contributing factors will require further research,” says Psychologist Heidi Backman.

The smart pump has significant benefits in the treatment of type 1 diabetes in children and adolescents

The effects of a self-regulating insulin pump system on type 1 diabetes control in children and adolescents were studied at HUS for one year. The smart pump was found to improve type 1 diabetes control in children and adolescents. The time during which blood sugar levels remained within the target limits increased by 12%, and this finding remained constant throughout the year-long study. Also, the incidence of low blood sugar readings was halved.

“The benefits of the smart pump for children and adolescents are indisputable. For all the patients monitored, diabetes control improved remarkably: the incidence of excessively high and low blood sugar readings decreased substantially,” says Pediatric Endocrinologist Anna-Kaisa Tuomaala.

One in three children with biliary atresia have functional problems in everyday life

Biliary atresia is a condition that is corrected in infancy, but many patients who have it present with problems in their cognitive and motor development later in childhood and in adolescence, and these must be monitored. Each year, 3 or 4 babies in Finland are born with biliary atresia. Treatment of biliary atresia in Finland is managed centrally at the New Children’s Hospital. Biliary atresia has for long been successfully treated with surgery. 

“A significant percentage of the patients studied had motor issues whose emergence could not be predicted. If any issues are noticed in a child’s motor or cognitive skills, in daycare or at school, attention should be paid and support measures provided as needed,” says Pediatric Gastroenterology Specialist Satu Ruuska.

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