Spina Bifida Center | Research

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Contact the Spina Bifida and Spinal Cord Conditions Center

  • 617-355-8532
  • International: +1-617-355-5209
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Boston Children’s Hospital is known for pioneering some of the most effective surgeries, diagnostic procedures and other essential techniques in treating diseases, including spina bifida. A significant part of our success comes from our commitment to research and clinical trials.

Our researchers are working daily to reach new insights into the disease and to answer pressing questions about spina bifida and related disorders. Our clinicians are currently engaged in promising work with the potential to help:

•   Engineer new tissue for patients with spina bifida and other related disorders
•   Improve bladder and bowel function in neurologically impaired children
•   Implement robotic surgery for widespread treatment of children with neurological and neuromuscular conditions

Spina bifida research and clinical trial highlights

Learn more about clinical trials and research studies currently available to our patients:

Changing the delivery of care for children with hydrocephalus: Dario Fauza, MD, a surgeon and affiliate member of the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children’s, and his team have demonstrated that neural stem cells can partially repair damaged areas of the spinal cord in a large animal model of spina bifida, which could lead to improved outcomes in the treatment of this disease.

Improving treatment for hydrocephalus: Benjamin C. Warf, MD, director of the Neonatal and Congenital Anomaly Neurosurgery Program at Boston Children’s, developed an innovative surgical technique in the treatment of hydrocephalus. The minimally invasive procedure, called endoscopic third ventriculostomy/choroid plexus cauterization (ETV/CPC), offers an alternative to the risky standard treatment of shunt implantation and lifelong shunt dependence. Learn more about spina bifida surgery at Boston Children’s. Read more about Dr. Warf’s treatment for hydrocephalus in our science blog, Vector and our health blog, Thriving.

Innovative treatments for bladder dysfunction: In the Department of Urology at Boston Children’s, Carlos Estrada, MD, has been working with silk-based biomaterials and stem cells to develop a treatment for the bladder dysfunction that is common in spina bifida. Using tissue engineering approaches, Dr. Estrada’s lab has successfully regenerated bladder tissue in small and large animals, including rodents and pigs. He anticipates that if experimental results continue to be promising, clinical trials in humans could occur as soon as five years from now.

Innovative surgical treatment for children with spinal deformities: Lawrence I. Karlin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon who is involved in the Neuromotor Therapy Program, Orthopedic Trauma Program and Spinal Program at Boston Children’s, is currently researching spinal deformities and improving the quality of life of children with musculoskeletal disorders. Read more about Dr. Karlin’s surgical treatment for spinal deformity on our health blog, Thriving.

Find a clinical trial

Boston Children’s Hospital conducts hundreds of clinical trials at any given time. While children must meet strict criteria in order to be eligible for a clinical trial, your child may be eligible to take part in a study. Before considering this option, you should be sure to:

•   Consult with your child’s treating physician and treatment team
•   Gather as much information as possible about the specific course of action outlined in the trial
•   Do your own research about the latest breakthroughs relating to your child’s condition

If your physician recommends that your child participate in a clinical trial, you can feel confident that the plan detailed for that study represents the best and most innovative care. Taking part in a clinical trial at Boston Children’s is entirely voluntary. Our team will be sure to fully address any questions you may have, and you may remove your child from the medical study at any time.

To find a Boston Children’s Hospital clinical trial, visit clinicaltrials.gov and search for “Boston Children’s Hospital” and your child’s condition.

Meet Our spina bifida researchers

Our Spina Bifida Center physicians and researcher—who are also members of the Harvard Medical School faculty—conduct ongoing research in our laboratories. They also collaborate routinely with scientists at Boston’s universities, other biomedical facilities and fellow premier medical centers.

Rosalyn Adam, PhD

Dr. Adam is the Director of Boston Children's Urological Research at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Adam focuses on the basic mechanisms of bladder dysfunction and developing novel treatments for neurogenic bladders.

Larry Benowitz, PhD

Dr. Benowitz is the director of Boston Children's Laboratories for Neuroscience Research in Neurosurgery, who is focusing on the basic mechanisms that help nerve connections regrow after traumatic injury

Basil Darras, MD

Dr. Darras is the director of Boston Children’s Neuromuscular Program, who is studying molecular genetics factors, diagnostic methods and therapies for neuromuscular disorders

Dario Fauza, MD, PhD

Dr. Fauza is part of the team of the Boston Children’s Department of Surgery Research, who is testing the efficacy of fetal tissue engineering in treating birth defects

Boston Children’s is so much more than a hospital—it’s a community of researchers, clinicians, administrators, support staff, innovators, teachers, patients and families, all working together to make the impossible possible. ”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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