As a leader in pediatric orthopaedic care, our physicians, medical staff and researchers are always looking for ways to improve the level of the care provided at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland. Being in the field of pediatric orthopaedics, the Portland Shriners Hospital staff specializes in medical conditions that affect children’s bones, muscles and joints. In order to provide the best care, it’s important for each child’s care team to understand how quickly their bones are growing, because, depending on a child’s condition, the rate of their growth can determine when the best time is for them to receive care. As is the case for all pediatric specialists, a child’s growth is typically tracked by comparing their height from one appointment to the next, and that can sometimes be unpredictable if a child has a growth spurt between appointments.
Last year, the Portland Shriners Hospital research team, led by William Horton, M.D., made an innovative discovery that impacts how physicians are able to track a child’s rate of growth. Through a simple finger-prick blood test, the research team discovered a protein (which they’ve named the biomarker CXM) that mirrors the child’s rate of bone growth. By using the biomarker CXM, physicians are able to quickly predict the rate of the child’s growth, and they can immediately make decisions about the medical care plan for their patients.
Since the discovery of the biomarker CXM, Michelle Welborn, M.D., has analyzed how this finger-prick blood test could help her provide the best care for patients who have scoliosis and other spine conditions. “Assessing a patient’s growth is a vital factor in determining the treatment for patients with scoliosis,” said Dr. Welborn. “By determining the rate of growth in real time, we can make sure that we are bracing patients for the correct amount of time, and that we are performing surgery at the optimal time. The utilization of biomarker CXM will enable us to build the best possible plan of treatment for patients, and it can minimize the amount of surgeries needed.”
This summer, the Scoliosis Research Society awarded Dr. Welborn with the Thomas E. Whitecloud Award for her work with the biomarker CXM. She won in the category of Best Basic Science Paper.
“Until now, no one has figured out how to track growth as it is happening,” said Dr. Welborn. “We now have the ability to predict growth instantaneously. Think about how many lives this will change across the world!”
The utility of biomarker CXM may also extend to managing other conditions, such as fracture healing, scoliosis, osteoarthritis and cancer, in adults as well as in children.