At the Forefront of Children’s Medicine

At Comer Children’s, we are committed to advancing discoveries in pediatric medicine and educating children's health care professionals across the country. We put this commitment into practice every day by conducting hundreds of clinical trials and research studies while providing unique services to our patients, their families and the community.

Because of our affiliation with the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, our faculty collaborate with internationally-renowned scientists and have access to world-class research facilities, which results in cutting-edge translational and clinical research. This means we can more quickly bring our scientific discoveries to patients.

Our pediatric department’s research awards from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other sponsors total more than $15 million annually.

Research

Our research helps pediatricians and pediatric specialists around the U.S. — and around the world — treat children's diseases, conditions and disorders. Plus, our patients get access to new treatments and therapies as we work to improve outcomes for our patients.

Our new biorepository — a collection of human specimens and associated data — will expedite research on children's food allergies and asthma. We invite our patients and their family members to donate samples of blood, stool and DNA from a cheek swab for the biorepository research.

As part of an NIH multicenter study, our researchers are investigating whether African-Americans — the predominant population on Chicago’s South Side — are more genetically predisposed to asthma.

Comer Children's researchers found that the microbe-rich dust from Amish homes may help build the immune system in young Amish children to prevent allergic asthma. This knowledge can help us develop novel strategies to both treat and prevent chronic, non-infectious inflammatory diseases such as asthma.

At Comer Children's, we're studying a new allogenic stem cell transplant, which is showing promise in reducing the risk of a complication called graft versus host disease in children with severe sickle cell disease (SCD). Meanwhile, we're researching new treatment options for adolescent and young adult patients who live with SCD.

UChicago has launched the worldwide Genomic Data Commons, which allows us to ask research questions only possible with data from large numbers of patients. Using this structure, our pediatric cancer specialists have developed the world’s largest clinical database on neuroblastoma patients. Soon, other pediatric diseases will be added to the database.

We're also working to make sure more adolescents and young adult (AYA) patients are enrolled in adult cancer trials when the investigational or approved drug that is being tested is appropriate for their cancer. 

We are studying how prenatal and perinatal brain injury makes a child's immature brain susceptible to long-term functional impairment. This will help us develop therapies that can help reduce the impact of the injury as they grow.

In the first national study to examine how often children end up in critical care from swallowing or absorbing opioids, Comer Children's researchers show that the number of pediatric intensive care unit admissions for opioid overdoses doubled between 2004 and 2015, despite continuing efforts to curb misuse of the addictive painkillers among adults.

We have numerous research projects in the works to help kids who use mechanical ventilation to breath avoid prolonged hospitalizations. We are hoping to identify evidence-based best practices for this population and understand how to overcome the barriers to discharging kids to home.

Our critical care team is studying how children's function, health-related quality of life, behavior and health care utilization are affected after they are diagnosed with a critical illness.

A Comer Children’s team is working to make sure preemies are evaluated after leaving the hospital and followed over a long period of time in order to prevent chronic kidney disease later in life.

We are investigating how the microbiome (the totality of microorganisms and their collective genetic material present in or on the human body) affects the brain development of young underprivileged children.

Our neonatologists are among the first researchers to examine the impact of a healthy microbiome on early brain and intestinal development. This research will help give us insight on how to change the microbiome in preterm infants to improve their long-term growth and development.

Our scientists are exploring the mechanisms that control epilepsy as part of their work to discover how to stop seizures before they occur. And we're also studying live human brain tissue to develop seizure treatments. Meanwhile, our neurologists are researching the genetic causes of neurofibromatosis (NF) and working to create new drug therapies that could bring relief to children suffering from this disorder affecting the skin and nervous system.

Innovation & Accolades

We're noted for our many milestones and medical firsts. And our team has been lauded for its innovations as we work to improve the health and wellness of children here in Chicago and around the world.

We were named one of only 28 FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) Clinical Network Centers of Excellence nationwide in 2015. The next year, we increased the number of oral food challenges we perform with patients nearly eightfold. The challenges help our physicians distinguish between false-positive results from conventional allergy tests and true food allergies, which in turn saves many children from needlessly restrictive diets.

UChicago Medicine was the first hospital in the Chicago area to offer a pediatric bone marrow transplant program more than 20 years ago. Today, we have the largest, most experienced stem cell transplantation program in the region. We are particularly expert at using matched sibling and other stem cell donors to successfully cure children with sickle cell disease.

We are one of the first institutions in the Midwest certified to offer the FDA-approved CAR T-cell immunotherapy for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is revolutionizing the treatment of this cancer. 

Comer Children’s is also the only center in Illinois and surrounding states to offer MIBG therapy for children with relapsed neuroblastoma.

The Presidential Leadership Scholars program announced that one of our pediatric cancer specialists has been selected as one of the 59 Scholars in the program’s fourth annual class.

Our interventional cardiologists performed a transradial cardiac catheterization in the youngest and smallest patient in the world in 2016. Today, we're at the forefront of developing cardiac devices specifically for the repair of heart defects in children. And our state-of-the-art hybrid pediatric cardiac catheterization lab helps reduce radiation exposure in kids who need certain heart procedures. Meanwhile, our children's cardiology team includes the only interventional cardiologist in Chicago who is board-certified to care for adults with congenital heart disease and one of only a handful of physicians in Chicago with the designation. 

Our Sickle Cell Disease Clinic at La Rabida Children's Hospital treats hundreds of children with the disease, making it the largest program of its kind in Chicago.

We believe it's important to care for kids when they're in the hospital and at home. That's why UChicago Medicine and Comer Children's are committed to being a good neighbor and a partner with our community. Our latest efforts include the following:

  • The Urban Health Initiative and Department of Pediatrics are leading the development of the South Side Pediatric Asthma Center, which provides comprehensive and collaborative approach to treating children in our surrounding neighborhoods where asthma rates are much higher than the rest of the city and country.
  • Our Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) — a state-of-the-art doctor’s office on wheels — serves children across the South Side by traveling to schools. In a pilot study, our researchers found that youth from urban neighborhoods in Chicago consider our mobile health units a safe place for sexual health services.
  • Comer Children's is home to Safe Kids Worldwide's South Chicagoland Chapter, which partners with local community organizations to offer resources and programs to help keep children safe across Chicago’s South Side and beyond.
  • When hospital staff found that 32 percent of caregivers were not getting enough to eat during their child’s hospital stay, they founded the Feed 1st program. Now six pantries stocked with food from the Greater Chicago Food Depository are located throughout Comer Children’s. 
  • Care2Prevent (C2P), our pediatric/adolescent comprehensive HIV/STI prevention and treatment program, goes directly into the community to test, treat and identify young adults vulnerable to acquiring HIV.
  • UChicago Medicine awards tens of thousands of dollars in grants to local grassroots violence prevention programs in the summer. 

Comer Children's Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS) Center is a proud recipient of the ELSO Award for Excellence in Life Support. And two of the state's 15 board-certified child-abuse pediatricians practice here at Comer Children's, where every inpatient under 2 admitted due to injuries is screened for potential abuse.

UChicago Medicine's Kovler Diabetes Center, the largest in the country, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2016 as a world-class center for diabetes care, scientific research and community engagement.

Comer Children's created the first national registry of patients with monogenic diabetes, which today includes more than 2,000 patients providing data for research studies.

Launched in 2001, UChicago Medicine's Celiac Disease Center has imparted knowledge of the disease to more than a half million clinicians, parents and patients. And it has helped improve the rampant under-diagnosis of the disease.

We are widely recognized as international leaders in the care of preterm infants and are actively involved in shaping the highest quality standards of care for these vulnerable babies. That helps our NICU babies get home faster and more safely. In fact, the length of stay for our very low birth-weight infants who survive is 59 days. That compares with an average of 64 days in other facilities.

We have the largest clinic for neurofibromatosis in the country, as well as a large clinic for tuberous sclerosis. Our specialists are among the few providing a full range of care for patients as they progress into adulthood. Meanwhile, we are one of only two health care systems in Illinois offering the ketogenic diet, which has been shown to dramatically reduce epileptic seizures in children. And we are one of the very few labs in the U.S. offering whole exome sequencing to help establish genetic diagnoses and treatment plans for individuals with rare disorders.