Historical Milestones

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Boston Children's Hospital has been a leader in child health for more than 130 years. Below are some of Children's Hospital's recent research and clinical milestones.

BOSTON CHILDREN'S HISTORY: READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Learn more about the rich history of Boston Children's Hospital with Images of America, the popular book series by Arcadia Publishing which chronicles the stories of towns, cities and historically-significant institutions, like Children's, across the nation.

The recently published book about Boston Children's Hospital presents a visual tour of the history of the hospital with images and stories, while also relaying the history of pediatrics in America.

1800s to 1930s

YEAR

MILESTONE

1869

Boston Children's Hospital opens as a 20-bed facility at 9 Rutland Street in Boston's South End.

1891

Children's establishes the nation's first laboratory for the modification and production of bacteria-free milk.

1920

Dr. William Ladd devises procedures for correcting various congenital defects such as intestinal malformations, launching the specialty of pediatric surgery.

1922

Dr. James Gamble analyzes the composition of body fluids and develops a method for intravenous feeding that saves the lives of thousands of infants at risk of dehydration from diarrhea.

1932

Dr. Louis Diamond identifies Rh disease, in which a fetus's blood is incompatible with its mother's. Diamond later develops a transfusion procedure that replaces the blood of a newborn affected by Rh disease.

1938

Dr. Robert Gross performs the world's first successful surgical procedure to correct a congenital cardiovascular defect, ushering in the era of modern pediatric cardiac surgery. 


1940s to 1970s

YEAR

MILESTONE

1947

Dr. Sidney Farber achieves the world's first successful remission of acute leukemia. He goes on to co-found the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

1954

Dr. John Enders and his colleagues win the Nobel Prize for successfully culturing the polio virus in 1949, making possible the development of the Salk and Sabin vaccines. Enders and his team went on to culture the measles virus.

1969

The New England Regional Infant Cardiac Program is established with Children's as its headquarters, providing advanced care for infants with congenital heart disease.

1971

Dr. Judah Folkman publishes "Tumor angiogenesis: therapeutic implications" in the New England Journal of Medicine. It is the first paper to describe Folkman's theory that tumors recruit new blood vessels in order to grow.

1978

Children's researchers develop genetic tests to diagnose thalassemia, a serious inherited blood disorder, in unborn children. A similar technique led to the development of prenatal tests for sickle cell anemia in 1982.


1980s

YEAR

MILESTONE

1983

Children's physicians report the first surgical correction of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a defect in which an infant is born without a left ventricle. The procedure is the first to correct what previously had been a fatal condition.

1986

Children's surgeons perform the hospital's first heart transplant.

1986

Dr. Louis Kunkel and his research team identify the gene on the X-chromosome responsible for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The following year, Drs. Kunkel and Eric Hoffman identify the protein missing in patients with the disease, called dystrophin. Today, Dr. Kunkel and collaborators are using muscle stem cells to deliver normal copies of the gene and restore dystrophin to diseased muscles.

1987

The gene for a brain protein found in the degenerative nerve tissue of Alzheimer's patients is isolated and located on chromosome 21 by Dr. Rachael Neve.

1989

Researchers in Children's Department of Neurology and Division of Genetics discover that beta amyloid, a protein that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, is toxic to neurons, indicating the possible cause of the degenerative disease.



1990s

YEAR

MILESTONE

1990

Dr. Joseph Murray, chief of Children's Department of Pediatric Plastic Surgery emeritus, wins the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work in organ transplantation.

1993

A team led by Dr. Carlo Brugnara discovers that a common antifungal medication, clotrimazole, prevents dehydration in red blood cells, a factor insickle cell disease.

1997

Endostatin, one of the most potent inhibitors of angiogenesis, is discovered by Drs. Michael O'Reilly and Judah Folkman.

1998

Dr. Anthony Atala successfully transplants laboratory-grown bladders into dogs, a major advance in the growing field of tissue engineering.

1998

Dr. Evan Snyder clones the first neural stem cells from the human central nervous system, offering the possibility of cell replacement and gene therapies for patients with neurodegenerative disease, neural injury or paralysis.

1999

The FDA approves the use of CardioSEAL, a minimally invasive device invented by Dr. James Lock that closes holes in the hearts of the most seriously ill cardiac patients.

1999

Children's establishes its Advanced Fetal Care Center to provide diagnostic services, genetic and obstetrical counseling and prenatal or immediate postpartum intervention for fetuses with complex birth defects.

1999

Dr. Larry Benowitz grows nerve cells in the damaged spinal cords of rats, a significant step in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. The next year, Dr. Benowitz discovers inosine, an important molecule in controlling axon regeneration in nerve cells.


2000s

YEAR

MILESTONE

2000

Children's performs its 100th heart transplant.

2000

Dr. Frederick Alt finds that end-joining proteins maintain the stability of DNA, helping to prevent the kinds of chromosomal changes that precede cancer.

2001

Children's performs the world's first successful fetal repair of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) in a 19-week-old fetus.

2001

Ophthalmologist Dr. Lois Smith demonstrates that insulin-like growth factor 1 is critical to blood vessel growth in the eye, and that its loss in premature babies may lead them to develop retinopathy of prematurity.

2001

Louis Kunkel, PhD, and colleagues from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center identify a region on chromosome 4 that is associated with longevity. Individuals with these special genes live healthy lives beyond 100 years.

2002

Drs. Scott Pomeroy and Todd Golub use microarray gene expression profiling to identify different types of brain tumors and predict clinical outcomes. This allows radiation and chemotherapy to be tailored to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy tissue alone.

2002

Dr. Nader Rifai co-authors a landmark study showing that a simple and inexpensive blood test for C-reactive protein, a substance produced in the liver when arteries become inflamed, is a more powerful predictor of a person's risk of heart attack or stroke than LDL cholesterol.

2003

Dr. Heung Bae Kim and Dr. Tom Jaksic develop, test and successfully perform the world's first-ever serial transverse enteroplasty (STEP) procedure, a potential lifesaver for patients with short bowel syndrome.

2003

Dr. Frederick Alt and colleagues discover that the disruption of a gene known as H2AX can disrupt the machinery that senses and fixes broken DNA, thereby setting the stage for cancer to develop. The finding has implications for understanding the origin of human cancers.

2004

Children's surgeons perform New England's first multivisceral organ transplant when an 11-month-old patient received a stomach, pancreas, liver and small intestine from a single donor.

2004

Drs. Marsha Moses, Roopali Roy and colleagues show that an enzyme called ADAM 12, when found in urine, is a reliable indicator of the presence of breast cancer. Such "biomarkers" may indicate that a dormant tumor is about to begin growing and spreading, and could be used for screening patients and for guiding therapy.

2004

Children's launches a multidisciplinary study of autism – involving the Developmental Medicine Center, the Program in Genomics, the Program in Neurobiology, and the Children's Hospital Informatics Program (CHIP) – that seeks to define its austism's.

2005

Dr. Richard Malley and colleagues discover that natural protection against Streptococcus pneumoniae infection occurs through an immune mechanism that may be independent of the current Prevnar vaccine, a potential opportunity for developing an improved, more broadly protective whole-cell vaccine.

2005

Dr. Raif Gehadiscovers a gene mutation that accounts for many cases of immune deficiency, in particular two syndromes known as immunoglobulin A deficiency and Common Variable Immunodeficiency that make people highly susceptible to infections. The finding is expected to yield a new diagnostic test for these conditions, which often go unrecognized.

2005

A diuretic drug is found to suppress newborn seizures in studies of rats and human tissue. The drug, known as bumetanide, is now in clinical trials at Children’s.

2006

Children's opens a state-of-the-art Proteomics Center, enabling researchers and clinicians to conduct large-scale, systematic studies of proteins and protein actions and interactions in the body.

2006

Drs. Dale Umetsu, Omid Akbari and colleagues report that a newly recognized type of immune cell, NKT, may play an important role in causing asthma, even in the absence of conventional T-helper cells. Moreover, NKT cells respond to a different class of antigens than are currently recognized to trigger asthma.

2006

Children’s Urology Department reports good outcomes in seven children with spina bifida who received laboratory-grown bladders, the first complete tissue-engineered organs to be implanted in human patients.

2006

Dr. Doug Cowan creates a tissue-engineered, electrically conductive implant for the heart and shows that it functions well in mice. Such implants would allow using a patients’ own cells to permanently treat complete heart block, rather than implant pacemakers that need to be replaced repeatedly in children.

2006

Dr. Mark Puder and colleagues discover that infants with intestinal failure can be saved from fatal liver complications simply by changing the kind of fat used in their parenteral nutrition solution. Further studies are examining whether the same substitution can prevent, not just reverse, liver disease, as well as other conditions such as lung injury and retinopathy of prematurity.

2006

Dr. Scott Armstrong and colleagues isolate rare cancer stem cells that cause leukemia in a mouse model of the human disease. The cells have proven surprisingly different from normal blood stem cells, potentially making it possible to selectively target them with drugs.

2006

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is linked to abnormalities in the brainstem's serotonin system, which regulates breathing, blood pressure, body heat and arousal. The study, by Dr. Hannah Kinney and colleagues, provides the strongest evidence yet that SIDS has a concrete biological basis. The findings could lead to a diagnostic test and perhaps a drug or other type of treatment to protect infants at risk for SIDS.  

2006

Drs. Sean Wu, Stuart Orkin and colleagues discover a type of stem cell that is the precursor to at least two main cell types that form the heart. The discovery offers a new understanding of how the heart develops and brings researchers closer to being able to regenerate tissues to repair congenital heart defects and damage caused by heart attacks.  

2006

Drs. Ofer Levy and Eva Guinan discover that patients undergoing chemotherapy before a bone marrow transplant lose a natural antibiotic protein called BPI that helps protect against graft-versus-host disease. The finding suggests that replacing BPI can prevent this devastating complication of bone marrow transplant.

2006

Dr. George Daley and colleagues demonstrate that unfertilized eggs can be used to create embryonic stem cells that are compatible with the recipient's immune system. Their technique, may provide an efficient way of generating customized stem cell lines from women and would eliminate tissue matching and tissue rejection problems, a major obstacle to successful tissue transplantation. 

2007

The laboratory of Dr. George Daley converts skin cells from an adult into cells that look and act like embryonic stem cells. The resulting cell lines, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), can potentially form any cell type in the body, and are allowing Children's scientists to model a variety of human diseases.

2007

A study led by Dr. David Ludwig, director of Children's obesity program, demonstrates that diets rich in rapidly-digested carbohydrates not only expand waistlines, but may also cause fatty liver disease, a condition that can lead to liver failure and death.

2007

Cardiac surgeons Drs. Virna Sales and John Mayer create living, growing heart valves in an animal model using tissue engineering techniques, raising the possibility of growing replacement valves and associated heart structures for children with congenital heart disease.

2007

Dr. Morris White and colleagues show that reducing insulin signaling specifically in the brain can prolong lifespan in mammals, providing a molecular explanation for the value of exercise and eating in moderation.

2007

Dr. Lois Smith and colleagues show that increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in popular fish-oil supplements, may protect against blindness resulting from abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye.

2007

A team led by Dr. Gabriel Corfas provides the best evidence to date that defects in the brain's white matter are a key contributor to schizophrenia, showing that two of the dozen or more genes previously linked with schizophrenia - neuregulin 1 and erbB4 - induce pathologic changes in the white matter that unbalance the dopamine system. The new understanding of schizophrenia raises the possibility of early diagnosis and perhaps preventive treatment

2007

Dr. David Fisher finds that the cancer-suppressing protein p53 is doubly protective when it comes to melanoma, both guarding against cancer-causing DNA damage from the sun, but and kick-starting the tanning process. The discovery might someday be applied to help prevent skin cancer, even in people unable to tan well.

2008

An international consortium led by Dr. Joel Hirschhorn of Children's Divisions of Genetics and Endocrinology discovered six new genetic variants linked with body mass index in the general population. Most are active in the brain, suggesting that differences in appetite regulation may play a role in obesity.

2008

Neurobiology researchers at Children's successfully get damaged nerves to recover and regrow in a mouse model by temporarily silencing genes that normally prevent regeneration. The findings suggest that targeting these natural growth inhibitors may make it possible to regrow nerves damaged by brain or spinal cord injury.

2008

A study led by Dr. Scott Armstrong of Children's Division of Hematology/Oncology discovers a small but potent epigenetic change (a change in gene activation) that launches a hard-to-treat form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. As a result of a mutation, an enzyme called DOT1L abnormally alters chromosome structure and activates genes that are normally silent. Armstrong's team is now exploring the possibility of inhibiting the enzyme with drugs.

2008

Neuroscientists at Children's identify Npas4, the first known "master switch" in brain cells to orchestrate the formation and maintenance of inhibitory synapses essential for proper brain function. Npas4 regulates more than 200 genes that calm over-excited cells, restoring a balance that is thought to go askew in neurologic disorders such as epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia.

2008

Building on the 2007 creation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), Children's Stem Cell Program goes on to produce 10 iPS cell lines carrying genes or genetic components for different diseases. The cells are proving be a valuable tool for studying the root causes of disease and for drug discovery.

2008

Researchers led by Dr. Takao Hensch in Children's Neurobiology program described a factor called Otx2  that can trigger the brain’s ability to learn by initiating a “critical period,” a window of heightened plasticity when the brain can readily make new connections. Though found in the visual system, Otx2 may have counterparts in the auditory, olfactory and other sensory systems that help time critical periods so that the brain sets up its circuits when it's getting the optimal sensory input.


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