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Research Programs


The faculty and staff of the MUSC Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics actively engage in research that will help inform effective clinical practice. The following is a description of our currently funded, investigator-initiated research programs:

Biomarkers in Autism of Aripiprazole and Risperidone Treatment (BAART)
Although the FDA has approved use of the antipsychotic drug risperidone for irritability associated with autistic disorder, a moderate response rate in pivotal clinical trials and concerns over tolerability and weight gain can force clinicians to select alternative drug treatments for which evidence-based support is sparse. The multi-center, blinded clinical trial to evaluate biomarkers as predictors of efficacy and safety in children with autistic disorder to risperidone, an atypical antipsychotic drug and aripiprazole, an antipsychotic having a unique clinical and receptor-binding profile.
Funding Source: National Institutes of Health
-- Principal Investigator: Lindsay DeVane, PhD
-- Co-Investigators: Laura Carpenter, PhD, Jane Charles, MD , Eve Spratt, MD, MSCR and Catherine Bradley, PhD

Improving Adherence to Pediatric HIV Medications
This study is designed to improve medication adherence in pediatric HIV patients. An electronic pillbox, the Maya Medminder, sends signals (lights, sounds, and phone calls) to patients if they have forgotten to take their medication on time. Coupled with this device are motivational enhancement phone calls and texting to encourage the patient’s own motivations for staying healthy.
Funding Source: South Carolina Translational Research Center
-- Principal Investigator: Eve Spratt, MD, MSCR

Improving Quality of Care for Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
This quality improvement project aims to implement system change in treatment of children with ADHD by increasing return medical visits and monitoring medication effectiveness through a standardized dosage titration method utilizing the Clinical Attention Problems Scale (CAPS).
Funding Source: South Carolina Select Health/Medicaid
-- Principal Investigators: Angela LaRosa, MD and Mary Kral, PhD

Prevalence of ADHD in Down Syndrome
The objective of this study is to determine the prevalence of ADHD in young children (age 3 years to 12 years) with Down syndrome seen here at MUSC, as well as determine whether there is a possible relationship between ADHD symptoms and common medical comorbidities in children with Down syndrome.
Funding Source:
-- Investigators: Michele Dehnert, MD, Angela LaRosa, MD, MSCR, Karen van Bakergem, LMSW

Rural Partnership for Behavioral Health
Currently under IRB review, this pilot project will compare the efficacy of Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) via telemedicine as compared to PCIT delivered directly in the clinic. This project will also work to equip rural providers with improved resources for addressing disruptive behavior issues in their own practices.
Funding Source: CATCH grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics
-- Investigators: Eve Spratt, MD,Michelle Macias, MD, Karen van Bakergem, LMSW

South Carolina Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Project (SC-ADDM)
This study aims to enhance current capacity for surveillance of autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities (e.g., intellectual disabilities and Fragile X) from a public health perspective, by investigating the prevalence of developmental disabilities (autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability) in the Coastal and Pee Dee regions of South Carolina. SC-ADDM has completed the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 surveillance years and will continue to collect data for the 2010 and 2012 surveillance years.
Funding Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
-- Principal Investigators: Jane Charles, MD and Joyce Nicholas, PhD
-- Co-Investigator: Laura Carpenter, PhD

South Carolina Children’s Educational Surveillance Study (SUCCESS)
The South Carolina Children’s Educational Surveillance Study (SUCCESS) is a screening and assessment study designed to determine the true prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) through broad screening of children in 1222 schools/ associations born in 2004 residing in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties. SUCCESS is the first population based screening and assessment study for ASD conducted in the United State, and is expected to provide groundbreaking information about ASD, including information about the impact of DSM-5 diagnosis on the prevalence of ASD.
Funding Source: Autism Speaks
-- Principal Investigators: Laura Carpenter, PhD and Lydia King, PhD

Success by Six in Rural Ghana
The primary goal of this initiative is to improve the health and development of vulnerable children with significant malnutrition in the Village of Okurase in Ghana, West Africa. This initiative will test the acceptability and feasibility of a proposed protocol to facilitate healthy development in children 6 and under, through a sustainable nutrition and wellness child development program employing regular monitoring with home health nurse visitation, nutrition and disease prevention, education and monitoring of the development and health benefits of daily improved nutrition. The PI has established a relationship with village leaders and community health care providers in this village of 3500 people. Identified young children will have a historical and ongoing measurement of disease over a 6 month period, improved measurement of growth and nutrition and measurement of developmental milestones as measured by the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) during the 6 month study and 6 week follow up.
Funding Source: MUSC Center for Global Health
-- Investigators: Eve Spratt, MD, MSCR, Jennifer Poon, MD, Cynthia Swenson, PhD, Sarah Logan, PhD and Ghanaian health officials

SynapDx Autism Spectrum Disorder Gene Expression Analysis Study (STORY)
This industry-sponsored, prospective, multi-site clinical trial is designed to develop a blood-based test measuring differences in RNA gene expression that may assist clinicians and families in making faster, more accurate ASD diagnoses. The STORY study is currently enrolling patients between 18 months and 5 years of age who have been referred for developmental delay.
Funding Source: SynapDx Corporation
-- Principal Investigators: Michelle Macias, MD and Laura Carpenter, PhD
-- Co-Investigator: Catherine Bradley, PhD

Other Research Initiatives
Our faculty also engage in collaborative research efforts with faculty in other specialty areas, including a number of federally-funded, multi-site investigations:

Cardiology: Developmental Outcomes following Surgical Correction of Congenital Cardiac Defects (Co-I: Jennifer Poon, MD and Kasey Hamlin-Smith, PhD)

Hematology/Oncology: TCD with Transfusions Changing to Hydroxyurea (TWiTCH Trial; PI: Sherron Jackson, MD and Investigator: Mary Kral, PhD) and Unrelated Donor Reduced Intensity Bone Marrow Transplant for Children with Severe Sickle Cell Disease Kral (PI: Jennifer Jaroscak, MD and Investigator: Mary Kral, PhD)

Neurosciences: Prevalence of ADHD in Pediatric Epilepsy (PI: Mary Kral, PhD and Co-I: Michelle Lally, MD)

Rheumatology: Association of Anti-NMDA Receptor Antibodies and Neurocognitive Dysfunction in Pediatric Patients with Lupus (PI: Natasha Ruth, MD and Co-I: Mary Kral, PhD)