News Briefs

Kennedy Krieger Brain Cancer Research Receives Proceeds from Golf Tournament

A golf tournament held October 2 in Exeter, Pennsylvania netted $8,500 for Kennedy Krieger researcher Dr. John Laterra's brain tumor studies. The tournament was organized by Lisa DeLeo, whose late fiancé Steve Mabry was treated for brain cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"Shortly after Steve's death, two of his friends asked me if I wanted to organize something in his memory," says Ms. DeLeo. "I really wanted the money to go to brain cancer research. I asked Steve's doctor at Hopkins for suggestions, and he put me in touch with Dr. Laterra."

Shortly the tournament, Ms. DeLeo traveled to Kennedy Krieger to present the money to Dr. Laterra in person. "Organizing the event was a lot of work, but having visited Kennedy Krieger, I know it was worth it." She is currently considering planning a second tournament.

Dr. Laterra's current studies focus on identifying the molecular pathways that encourage the growth of brain tumors.


Kennedy Krieger Researcher Joins Study Examining Causes of Autism

Dr. Rebecca Landa, director of Kennedy Krieger's Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), is collaborating with Dr. Craig Newshaffer at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins on a pilot project coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The project will be the first large-scale examination of the causes of autism.

Dr. Landa is participating in the project's clinical subgroup, which involves documenting behavioral and developmental characteristics of children with autism. Other subgroups will examine autism's biological markers.

This new project is a part of a CDC initiative called CADDRE, or Centers of Excellence for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemilogy. CADDRE strives to identify the number of children with autism and other developmental disorders, improve community and service provider awareness of these disorders, conduct research into what factors make it more likely that a child will have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), determine what other disabilities children with ASDs have, identify biomarkers and calculate the economic costs of ASDs. Most recently, Dr. Landa and CARD colleagues Dr. Katherine Holman and Julie Rusyniak have been conducting record reviews of the prevalence of autism in regions throughout the United States.


Miss USA Visits Children in Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit

Children in Kennedy Krieger's inpatient rehabilitation unit enjoyed a very special story hour on October 8. Reigning Miss USA Shandi Finnessy stopped by to tour the Institute and to read The Furrtails, her recent children's book about a how a young rabbit learns to understand and relate to his disabled brother.

Finnessy, who holds an undergraduate degree in psychology and is currently completing her Masters in counseling, has long been an advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities. She became interested in the issues facing those with special needs during an internship working with women with intellectual disorders and Down syndrome. "When I began my internship, I was uncomfortable at first," she says. "This was the first time I had really spent any time with people with disabilities. But over the course of my time there, I developed friendships with these women and had the opportunity to see them grow and prosper. Since then, I've spoken quite a bit about the importance of inclusion, especially in schools with younger children. Children have an entirely different way of seeing people when they're young enough, they don't even see the disability."


Kennedy Krieger's Physician's Paper Appears in Annals of Neurology

Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, a Kennedy Krieger research scientist, published a paper, "Increased neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism," in the January issue of Annals of Neurology.

The paper detailed the findings of a study involving examination of postmortem brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid from people with autism. Dr. Zimmerman and colleagues Drs. Carlos Pardo and Diana Vargas from Johns Hopkins observed inflammation in the cerebral cortex, white matter and especially the cerebellum of people with autism. The team also identified unusual activation of brain cells called microglia and astrologia as well as elevated levels of a protein called MCP-1. Their findings indicate that innate neuroimmune reactions contribute to the behavioral abnormalities observed in some individuals with autism, suggesting that future treatments could involve modifying those reactions in the brains of patients with autism.