CHOC Stem Cell Production Facility to Accelerate Research into Rare Neurological Diseases

StemCellLabpicCHOC Children’s new stem cell production facility, slated to open late this summer, will allow CHOC researchers to produce patient-specific cells for immune-matching therapies that could positively impact fatal neurological diseases in children – all at a fraction of the cost of building a larger, more complex laboratory.

Within the state-the-art softwall clean room, CHOC researchers will study a stem cell-based therapy for the treatment for mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS-1), a rare and progressive neurodegenerative disease that typically claims patients before they reach the age of 10.

“Based on the results of animal trials we’ve conducted so far, we have a high degree of confidence that stem cell-based therapy will work to treat MPS-1,” said Philip Schwartz, Ph.D., senior scientist at the CHOC Children’s Research Institute and managing director of the National Human Neural Stem Cell Resource.

“If our research is successful, the approach could be used to treat a number of other immune-based diseases that damage the nervous system, like multiple sclerosis,” Dr. Schwartz said.

The approach involves using umbilical cord blood to replace a patient’s immune system, then implanting neural cells derived from the same blood into the brain to repair and prevent brain damage.

While implanting cells directly into the brain isn’t new, current treatment protocols require that patients take immunosuppressant drugs to reduce the risk of rejection, which leaves them vulnerable to a host of infections. Standard procedures for replacing the immune system, like bone marrow transplants, aren’t effective for patients with brain disorders caused by their underlying disease because the transplanted cells don’t cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore don’t slow the progression of brain disease.

The new facility will be one of less than a dozen in the nation and the only one that is focused on immune matching rather than immune suppression.

Dr. Schwartz estimated that it would require about five years of work to establish a program before approaching the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to begin Phase I clinical trials. The current research project is supported by a $4.27 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Dr. Antoine Khoury Featured on KNBC-TV Highlighting New Pain Management Technique

CHOC researcher and chief of pediatric urology, Dr. Antoine “Tony” Khoury was recently featured in one of Dr. Bruce Hensel’s health segments on KNBC-TV. Following findings published by him and colleagues in the December 2013 online issue of the Journal of Pediatric Urology, Dr. Khoury has garnered attention for his research into and use of the ON-Q pain relief system to improve pain control in children undergoing urological procedures. While the ON-Q system is well established as an effective pain management technique for adults, Dr. Khoury’s study is the first to evaluate its effectiveness in children.

To learn more, including hearing from a grateful family, watch the segment:

CHOC Children’s Community Partner, St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group

CHOC Children’s – and our pediatric subspecialists – are proud to partner with pediatricians throughout Southern California St. Joseph Heritage Group Photo (Final) 09-15-14to enhance the delivery of pediatric care.  Together, we’re committed to securing bright futures for children.  We’d like to take a moment to introduce you to one of our community partners, Saint Joseph Heritage Medical Group.  In today’s Q & A, we learn what this group considers their best practice, how they encourage teamwork, and more.

What is one of your group’s best practices?

One of our “best practices” is the responsible use of antibiotics.  While we appreciate how scary and frustrating it is for parents to have a sick child, we use antibiotics only when appropriate and educate parents about supportive care for viral infections.  We think that it is better to take the time to educate parents about their child’s disease than to expose a child to unnecessary medication.

How has technology enhanced your practice?

We were early adopters of an electronic medical record (EMR). As a multi-site group with a pediatric dedicated urgent care, we find an EMR an invaluable tool. Having a central location for patient information makes it easier for us to provide great care to our patients in any location. Technology has also allowed us to offer more comprehensive preventive care to our patients. We believe strongly that good preventive care makes for healthier communities.

How is team work encouraged in your practice?

We function as one cohesive department in a large multi-specialty medical group. We have formal meetings every other month to share best practices, to improve efficiency, and to improve clinical work flows. We keep in touch with each other by email when important information comes up between these meetings. We also participate in journal club quarterly in order to keep ourselves up to date with new clinical guidelines. We are a handy resource for each other and will often sit down together to talk through a complicated or unusual case.

Fictional physicians have graced the small screen for years.  Which TV MD gets your group’s vote for “top doc” and why?

Our vote for “top doc” is definitely Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins.  She is inquisitive, compassionate and creative. She makes doctor visits for preschool-aged kids fun and non-threatening.

With pediatric offices in Santa Ana, Orange and Tustin, Saint Joseph Heritage Medical Group is comprised of the following board-certified pediatricians: Dr. Sinda Althoen; Dr. Connie Bartlett; Dr. Reema Basu; Dr. Marc Bennett; Dr. Robert Frankel; Dr. Paul Genser; Dr. Lisa Hoang; Dr. James Kim; Dr. James Morley; Dr. Sarah O’Loughlin; Dr. Melissa Rosin; Dr. Taylor Tran; Dr. John Winkelman; and two urgent care pediatricians Dr. Paul Ziesmer and Dr. Naho Taguchi. In addition to providing comprehensive preventive care, the group also has physicians who specialize in various medical conditions such as asthma and allergy, behavioral health and adolescent care. 

Orange County Pediatricians Honor Dr. Nick Anas

Dr. Nick Anas The California Chapter 4 (Orange County) American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) honored CHOC Children’s Pediatrician-in-Chief Dr. Nick Anas with the “Pediatrician of the Year” award at the chapter’s annual gala held in Irvine on April 26. Dr. Anas was recognized by his peers for his efforts in growing and developing the local AAP chapter; his leadership in the community; and his passion for providing outstanding care for children throughout Orange County.

“Nick exemplifies all the attributes one would look for in selecting a ‘Pediatrician of the Year’: Outstanding Clinician, Educator, Advocate, Leader and Mentor. His enthusiasm and energy set the bar in all of these arenas,” said Dr. Paul Lubinsky, associate director, pediatric intensive care unit, CHOC Children’s and medical director, CHOC Children’s Specialists.

In addition to serving as pediatrician-in-chief – a position appointed to him in 2009, Dr. Anas leads CHOC’s critical care program as the medical director of the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. The unit is the first in the nation to earn the Pediatric Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence. He leads his team with a steadfast commitment to the highest standards of patient care and safety. Dr. Anas is actively involved in clinical research, frequently contributing to medical journals and textbooks, and in education, training the next generation of leaders in the field of pediatric critical care medicine.

In 2011, Dr. Anas was appointed to serve a two-year term on the Emergency Medical Care Committee for Orange County Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The committee advises the Orange County Board of Supervisors and EMS on all matters related to emergency medical care in the county. Currently, Dr. Anas serves as the president of the California Children’s Specialty Care Coalition, a statewide organization of pediatric specialists who advocate for children with special health care needs.

A graduate of West Virginia University, Dr. Anas completed his pediatric training at the Children’s Medical Center, Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and his fellowship training at the University of Rochester. He is board certified in pediatric critical care medicine and pediatric pulmonology.

“CHOC is very proud of Dr. Anas for his passionate dedication to the children and families in Orange County – and beyond. He’s an extraordinary leader, keeping his colleagues and CHOC on the forefront of critical care medicine. As an inspiring advocate, he’s tireless in his efforts to ensure all children have access to the finest facilities, equipment, treatment and care,” said Dr. Maria Minon, vice president, medical affairs and chief medical officer, CHOC Children’s.

Federal Government Delays ICD-10 Conversion

Clock & Stethoscope

On April 1, 2014, President Obama signed into law the “Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014,” which requires the delay of ICD-10 for at least one year. Specifically, the bill states that the Department of Health and Human Services cannot adopt the ICD-10 code set as the standard until at least October 1. 2015. (The health care industry had been preparing to make the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 on October 1, 2014.)

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), which is recognized as the leading source of health information management knowledge, is actively seeking clarification on a number of issues related to this new development, and is urging that implementation of ICD-10 be postponed no longer than October 1, 2015. Until more is known, AHIMA is encouraging health care organizations to continue with preparations for transitioning from ICD-9 to ICD-10.

CHOC’s ICD-10 team, comprised of representatives from many departments, is continuing to move forward with preparation activities. A comprehensive review of the program has been conducted and very few deliverables have been put on hold due to the momentum and volume of readiness-related activities. As a program deliverable for the month of April, an organization-wide scorecard (containing key performance indicators for each work stream) has been created and will be delivered monthly to all associates and physicians.

If you have any questions related to CHOC’s ICD-10 program, please contact Jason Fischer, director, business applications and revenue cycle, at 714-509-4728.