"Why develop a nanopaediatrics programme? Because children are not small adults", stated Dr. Edward McCabe, physician-in-chief of Mattel Children's Hospital and founding director of the new programme. "We know that drugs affect children - they metabolize, excrete and may even utilize, developmentally, specific receptors - differently than adults. Unless children are included as a research priority for the application of nanotechnology, then we will simply be applying approaches developed for adults. This flawed strategy will place children at risk, as opposed to a programme in which children will be the focus from the outset."
Nanotechnology involves manipulating atoms and molecules to create tiny devices, smaller than one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter). It is anticipated that nanomedicine, fueled by nanotechnology, will enable more personalized medical care that will be both predictive and preventive.
While considerable attention has been paid to nanomedicine, UCLA's nanopaediatrics programme, initially organized in May 2008, may be the first initiative to examine the promises and risks of nanodiagnostics and nanotherapeutics for children in a formal and organized manner.
Created thanks to a generous $1,8 million gift from the Mattel Children's Foundation, the programme will support a nanopaediatrics research core and pilot funding for projects that will potentially enable investigators to obtain grants from the National Institutes of Health.
"The Mattel Children's Foundation is excited to support this groundbreaking programme in nanopaediatrics, which can potentially revolutionize the research and treatment of illnesses that affect young patients", stated Kevin Farr, chairman of the foundation and chief financial officer of Mattel Inc. "Our philanthropic vision is to make a meaningful difference, one child at a time, and we believe that the nanopaediatrics programme at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA will bring new technologies and treatments to better the lives of children battling for their health."
Projects currently underway at UCLA include the development and application of nanodiagnostic tools such as DNA-based newborn screening tests for genetic abnormalities, the development of a new generation of nanodevices for the treatment of children with genetic diseases and cancer, and the investigation of the use of nanoparticles for diagnostic imaging both during pregnancy and after birth.
The Mattel UCLA NanoPaediatrics Programme will partner with the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA, an integrated research centre established in 2000 to encourage university collaboration with industry and enable the rapid commercialization of discoveries in nanosystems.
Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, one of the highest-rated children's hospitals in Southern California, is a vital component of UCLA Medical Center, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the third best hospital in the nation and best in the western United States for the past 19 years. Mattel Children's Hospital offers a full spectrum of primary and specialized medical care for infants, children and adolescents. The hospital's mission is to provide state-of-the-art treatment for children in a compassionate atmosphere, as well as to improve the understanding and treatment of paediatric diseases.