Centers of Research Emphasis

Prevalent pediatric diseases that exhibit complex genetic patterns, such as neurodevelopmental disorders and certain birth defects, are becoming tractable for gene discovery efforts. Additionally, the interface between a child’s genetic makeup and his or her environment can be explored robustly as it correlates to conditions such as asthma and obesity.

The Mindich Child Health and Development Institute (MCHDI) is dedicated to translational research with an emphasis on genomic and environmental studies to better understand the pathogenesis of prevalent pediatric conditions and diseases. Leveraging Mount Sinai’s leadership in genetics and genomics sciences, as well as environmental medicine, the MCHDI has identified the following four targeted centers of research emphasis to maximize its impact on new discoveries:

Center for Childhood Asthma and Allergy

Rates of asthma and allergy among children have increased sharply throughout the U.S., particularly in the New York metropolitan area. A staggering 6.7 million children (9.1 percent) across the nation have been diagnosed with asthma with a sizeable 475,000 of them located in New York. Asthma is now the leading cause of hospital admissions, totaling nearly $10 billion annually in direct health care costs and results in unacceptably high levels of morbidity and even death. Additionally, between 1997 and 2007, the number of children in the U.S. with food allergies increased by 18 percent with approximately three million aged 18 and under affected by a food or digestive allergy in 2007 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mount Sinai’s Jaffe Food Allergy Institute and the Department of Preventative Medicine have strong research programs investigating the immunobiology and environmental triggers of food allergies and pediatric asthma, as well as developing novel therapeutic approaches for them. Our goal is to broaden the scope of translational research inquiry to elucidate the genetic underpinnings of other childhood allergic conditions and pharmacologic responsiveness.

Center for Molecular Cardiology

Among all birth defects, those affecting the heart remain the leading cause of infant mortality. While remarkable advances in cardiac surgery for infants and children have improved early morbidity, the advent of molecular medicine promises more significant advancements in the area of congenital heart disease (CHD). Mount Sinai has been at the forefront of the heart gene discovery process and recognizing that strength, initiated the Center for Molecular Cardiology, led by MCHDI Director Bruce Gelb, MD, which is devoted to accelerating this research. Its efforts have already led to the identification of disease genes for Char and Noonan syndromes and the Center is participating in the NHLBI-funded effort to accelerate gene discovery for CHD. Our ultimate goal is to apply genetic information to prevent CHD and improve outcomes for children born with them.

Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Autism, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, and mental retardation affect 10-15 percent of our nation’s children. Genetic causes, particularly larger scale genomic events resulting in losses or gains of thousands or even millions of DNA base pairs, are increasingly being identified. Subsequent studies have shown that some genetically-induced deficits are amenable to medical intervention leading to clinical trials for select disorders. Working closely with Mount Sinai’s Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Center, our goal is to broaden our investigative scope of neurodevelopmental disorders to elucidate their genetic causes and then understand their disease mechanisms.

Center for Childhood Obesity and Diabetes

Obesity, as widely reported, has become an epidemic in our nation. Most disturbingly, children are greatly affected as obesity among kids ages 6 to 11 has tripled in the past 30 years (from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008) and 41 percent of those entering kindergarten in NYC are overweight. This has led to a second- wave epidemic of diabetes of the type formally seen only in adults and consequently, grave concerns about long-term consequences like arteriosclerosis. The more typical childhood-onset form of diabetes is known to have strong genetic underpinnings. We are working collaboratively with the Department of Preventive Medicine and the Metabolism Institute to establish better preventive and treatment strategies for childhood obesity and diabetes.

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