Many Department of Pediatrics faculty members have their own laboratories and programs, where they work to generate new knowledge through research.
Faculty pursue a wide range of research interests, such as childhood cancer, stem cell therapies, global health, transplantation, type 1 diabetes, kidney disease, social and behavioral health, newborn care, and childhood health conditions that lead to chronic diseases in adults.
To explore their research interests, visit our faculty bio pages or the individual labs and programs pages below.
General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health
Healthy Environments for Vulnerable Youth Program
The Healthy Environments for Vulnerable Youth Program conducts both qualitative and quantitative research on a wide variety of social factors and how they are associated with the well-being of adolescents and young adults, with particular attention to vulnerable groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth, those with disabilities, and those who are overweight. Social factors include characteristics of the family and peer group (e.g. bullying experience); school resources, climate, and characteristics (e.g. presence of a gender/sexuality student organization); and features of the neighborhood or community (e.g. political climate, public policy). We capitalize on existing youth surveillance data to create multilevel quantitative datasets for hierarchical analysis. Qualitative methods with youth, parents, and professionals include interviews, focus groups, and other novel techniques.
Preventive Health Services for Adolescents & Young Adults
Our team conducts research on preventive health services for adolescents and young adults, with particular attention to vulnerable groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer/questioning youth; homeless youth; and young people living in rural areas. Key areas of focus include behavioral, public health, and health services approaches to increasing adolescent and young adult vaccination, particularly vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) and to improving young people’s receipt of quality preventive services.
Shlafer Program for Research on Criminal Justice & Health
Shlafer Program for Research on Criminal Justice and Health conducts both qualitative and quantitative research on the intersections of criminal justice and health. Our work includes a focus on the impacts of maternal incarceration for child health and development, with an intentional focus on the experiences of pregnant women in prison.
Hematology, Oncology and BMT
Immunobiology and transplantation are the main research interest in the Blazar Laboratory. Project areas include:
- Graft-versus-host disease
- Regulatory T Cells
- Immune recovery and regeneration post-transplant
- Genetic manipulations and reprogramming of immature and mature cells
The Largaespada lab works to exploit mutagenesis for cancer gene discovery. Some key methods used include:
- Sleeping Beauty
- New Mouse Models
- Molecular Biology
- Neurofibromatosis Type 1
- Brain Tumors
Dr. Moriarity’s laboratory is working on studying the genetics of pediatric cancer, including sarcomas and brain tumors, to identify novel therapeutic targets to better treat pediatric cancer patients.
- Genome Engineering
- Gene Therapy
- Cancer Immunotherapy
- Pediatric Cancer Genetics
- Technology Development
Panoskaltsis - Mortari Laboratory
The Panoskaltsis-Mortari laboratory is centered on the field of regenerative medicine. We study tissue engineering from stem cells using two approaches:
- Decellularized whole organ scaffolds integrated with sophisticated bioreactors
- 3D Bioprinting using extrusion, suspension, and laser-assisted techniques
The Tolar Laboratory focuses on finding new ways of treating children with lethal diseases. Additional research areas include:
- Reducing the negative effects of stem cell transplantation
- Creation and use of induced pluripotent stem cells
- Gene therapy using gene addition
- Gene editing
Pediatric Developmental Neurobehavioral Science Research Group
Georgieff Laboratory in Developmental Nutritional Neuroscience
The Georgieff Laboratory in Developmental Nutritional Neuroscience focuses on neonatal iron nutrition & metabolism and the developing brain, and specifically the hippocampus, which underlies recognition memory processing. We now understand through the work of our laboratory that adult mental health has its beginnings in the perinatal period and that failure to provide the optimal environment in that period can have life-long consequences. Thus, the real cost to society of early life adversity, including nutrient deficits, is the lost educational and job potential because of failure to “construct” the brain during its critical periods of development.
The Tran Lab investigates the effects of early-life iron deficiency on the regulation of neural gene expression. Additional research interest include:
- Learning and memory
- Neonatal ischemic stroke
- Molecular biology of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor regulator
Pediatric Infectious Disease
Infection is the leading preventable cause of adverse pregnancy outcomes and neurologic disability in children. The Bierle Lab studies host-virus interactions at the maternal-fetal interface and aims to understand how viral infections are transmitted from mother to child and contribute to the development of new vaccines and therapeutics that will improve pregnancy outcomes and children’s health.
Schleiss Laboratory (Cytomegalovirus)
Among the causes of congenital and perinatal infections in infants and children, cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most important, accounting for more neurodevelopmental disability (including hearing loss) in children that any other infectious diseases. The Schleiss Lab studies vaccines aimed at preventing congenital CMV infection in a tractable small animal model, the guinea pig. Translational research in newborn screening and CMV epidemiology in Minnesota is also a major focus of the lab. Finally, we have collaborations with laboratories globally, examining the role of CMV as a co-factor in other diseases of importance in a global pediatric context.
Additional Research Labs and Programs
Cusick Laboratory for Global Nutrition Research
Dr. Sarah Cusick’s research aims to elucidate micronutrient and infectious disease interactions, with an ultimate goal of optimizing the health and neurobehavioral development of children living in resource-poor settings.
The Gale laboratory studies pathogenesis mechanisms of fungi, with a focus on Candida albicans - a leading cause of fungal disease in immunocompromised patients. Our interests include fungal morphogenesis, host-pathogen interactions, and fungal community structure in the gut and its links to disease.
Islet Autotransplant Research Program
Dr. Melena Bellin’s research is focused on understanding and improving outcomes after islet transplantation. Islet transplant is a specialized procedure in which islets are harvested from the pancreas and infused back in the liver. This procedure can be performed for patients who are having a pancreatectomy to treat chronic pancreatitis (total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplant) or for patients who have type 1 diabetes (alloislet transplant).
Neonatal Jaundice Research Program
Dr. Katie Satrom's research seeks to optimize the management of neonatal jaundice in two distinctly vulnerable patient populations – preterm infants and infants born in low resource settings globally.