Children's Hospital Boston:
A Legacy of Research and Discovery
In 1979, at his own surprise birthday luncheon, Nobel laureate and former chief of Children's Hospital's Research Division of Infectious Diseases John F. Enders, Ph.D., learned that the hospital's Pediatric Sciences Research Building was to be named in his honor. Deeply moved by the gesture, he said, "I hope that this building will be a mansion of surprises, because that is what science really is." Today, the John F. Enders Pediatric Research Laboratories and the Karp Family Research Laboratories buildings house more than 2,000 scientists, researchers and supporting staff whose pace-setting research brings hope to children and adults afflicted with disease.
Since the hospital's founding in 1869, Children's scientists have been at the forefront of pioneering efforts to investigate and develop new treatments for a host of life-threatening diseases and conditions. Today, in Children's 396-bed tertiary care facility and more than 100 outpatient specialty clinics, hospital physicians diagnose and treat thousands of infants, children and adolescents each year. Children's garners more federal funding for research than any other pediatric hospital in the nation. The hospital is home to 8 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine, and 12 investigators supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the nation's largest private nonprofit source of funding for biomedical research and science education. Renowned for its commitment to both research and caring, Children's utilizes its extraordinary research and clinical expertise and resources to restore health and offer children hope for a brighter future. For the sixteenth year in a row, Children's has been rated one of the nation's top hospitals specializing in pediatric care by U.S. News & World Report.
Early in the twentieth century, discoveries by pioneering researchers at Children's laid the foundation on which much of the care of children still rests today. Dr. James Lawder Gamble developed the blueprint for the body's electrolyte composition and devised a protocol for giving fluids intravenously, an important finding at a time when dehydration associated with diarrhea was a leading cause of infant death. Dr. Louis Diamond developed a test to detect Rh antibodies in the blood of Rh-negative pregnant women and performed the first successful blood exchange transfusion on a newborn.
Many more pioneers and "surprises" would follow, including:
Dr. Sidney Farber's work in the fields of hematology and cancer chemotherapy, culminating in the first successful remission of acute leukemia.
Dr. Charles A. Janeway's exploration of problems associated with immunity. His pursuit of the potential uses of gamma globulin gave rise to immunoglobulin therapy now used to treat many complex protein syndromes.
Dr. John F. Enders' efforts to better understand and treat a number of human viruses. He and his colleagues were the first to culture the polio and measles viruses, paving the way for the development of vaccines for both diseases.
Dr. Robert E. Gross's first surgical repair of a congenital cardiac defect, ushering in the era of modern heart surgery.
Dr. Anthony Atala's successful transplant of laboratory-grown bladders into dogs, and later into seven patients in need of replacement bladders, the first time complete tissue-engineered organs had been implanted in humans.
The discovery by Drs. Louis Kunkel and Richard Mulligan that intravenous stem cell injection can lead to muscle restoration in animals with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Dr. Louis Kunkel's discovery, together with colleagues from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, of a region on chromosome 4 that is associated with exceptionally long life.
Dr. Felix Engel's and Dr. Mark Keating's success in getting adult heart muscle cells to divide and multiply in mammals, the first step in regenerating heart tissue, offering a possible research direction for helping the millions of people who experience heart attacks.
Dr. Stephen Harrison's demonstration of how a key part of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) changes shape, allowing the AIDS virus to enter and infect cells. These structural clues may someday lead to new vaccine and treatment approaches.
The discovery by Dr. Dale Umetsu and colleagues that a newly recognized type of immune cell, NKT, may play an important role in causing asthma.
(More historic milestones...)
Children's Hospital has afforded many talented, inspired researchers the opportunity to understand and explore the most perplexing and intractable diseases. These researchers' seminal contributions have been and continue to be directed towards one clear, visible and compelling target: the patient.
Two Children's Hospital scientists, Dr. John F. Enders and Dr. Joseph E. Murray, are Nobel Prize winners. During his 40-year career at the hospital, Enders researched viruses, focusing on hypersensitivity, resistance to bacterial infection and the many aspects of viral disease. In 1949, he developed a technique to grow viruses in vitro, producing large enough quantities to make life-saving vaccines. In 1954, Enders and his colleagues Dr. Frederick Robbins and Dr. Thomas H. Weller received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for growing the polio virus in culture, laying the groundwork for development of the polio vaccine.
Murray, chief of plastic surgery from 1969 to 1986 at both Children's and then Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, received his Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1990. He was cited for the first successful organ transplant, a kidney transplanted from one identical twin to another, and his work exploring the problem of organ rejection, especially in cases in which the donor is unrelated to the recipient. Using Azathioprine, a new immune-suppressant compound, Murray, Nobel laureate Dr. Peter Medawar and scientists from Burroughs-Wellcome Company collaborated on a series of dog experiments in 1962. This effort culminated in successful cadaveric kidney grafts in humans.
The legacy and future directions of the research activities at Children's Hospital may be best stated by Dr. Judah Folkman, director of the hospital's program in vascular biology: "The patient motivates and inspires. When the promise of nature goes awry, the physician asks why and then moves into the laboratory to search for answers."
Last updated May, 2009.