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Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Graduate Program

Chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and others have their origins in childhood. These conditions are responsible for a negative impact on quality of life as well as a shortened lifespan. The economic costs are also devastating—90% of annual health care spending in the U.S. goes toward the treatment of chronic disease. Health care disparities shift this burden of chronic disease to communities also impacted by social, economic and environmental factors. Many investigators at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are working to change this trajectory.

A graduate program in the Developmental Origins of Health and Diseases is being offered by the University of Southern California in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. This program pairs clinicians, researchers and students with a curriculum focused on how diseases arise—from genetics to the environment and beyond. Courses focus on the multitude of factors that contribute to disease progression and the technologies available to better understand and treat these diseases. The program encompasses the future of pediatric healthcare.

Learn more about this program including course descriptions.

CHLA Investigators Participating in the Graduate Program

A number of CHLA investigators are involved in the program:

James Amatruda, MD, PhD, studies the development of tumors in children using the unique and powerful zebrafish model. His research focuses on sarcomas, germ cell tumors and Wilms tumor.

Claire Baldauf, MD, is an attending neonatologist whose focus is on perinatal care in the Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit (NICCU).

David Cobrinik, MD, PhD, works within The Vision Center to better understand retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that affects very young children and can lead to blindness.

Sabrina Derrington, MD, is the Director of the Center for Bioethics. She works with hospital leaders and professors in ethics and law departments at USC to ensure that children flourish and pediatric ethics are maintained.

Brian Dias, PhD, is a neuroscientist who studies stress, depression, social behavior and fear, and seeks to better understand how these factors can carry across generations to affect physiology.

Kathie Eagleson, PhD, studies the process of normal development, with a specific focus on brain architecture. She is interested in early life stress and how it may affect brain development.

Mark Frey, PhD, is interested in regeneration in the intestine, with the goal of better understanding how diseases like inflammatory bowel disease arise and could be better treated.

Senta Georgia, PhD, studies Type I diabetes. In particular, she is researching new ways to regrow damaged/dead cells in the pancreas to restore the body’s own ability to produce insulin.

Michael I Goran, PhD, has a research program focused on the causes and consequences of childhood obesity. Specifically, his work examines nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding as factors contributing to unhealthy weight gain.

Anna Kamitakahara, PhD, is a neuroscientist who is interested in the special relationship between the brain and the gut. How this relationship forms and is maintained can lead to a better understanding of healthy brain development.

Rusty Lansford, PhD, co-Director of the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Graduate Program, develops new molecular and imaging techniques to investigate the complicated cell-cell interactions that govern development. His lab investigates how environmental stressors affect development.

Pat Levitt, PhD, the Chief Scientific Officer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, has a number of research projects, from discovery research to clinical in nature. He is interested in the developing brain, with specific focus on the brain’s architecture and how it relates to development.

Ching-Ling (Ellen) Lien, PhD, studies heart disease using the zebrafish as a model. Unlike humans, these small fish have the ability to repair their own damaged heart tissue. A better understanding of the mechanisms behind their regenerative abilities could lead to improved treatment for children with congenital heart defects and heart disease.

Bradley Peterson, MD, studies the origins of psychiatric disorders, using brain imaging techniques. He works to better understand how illness arises—from genes to environment and beyond.

Michael Schumacher, PhD, studies how tissues regenerate in the intestine, with a particular focus on intestinal inflammatory diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. His work is aimed at harnessing regenerative processes to improve treatment and limit chronic inflammation.

Elizabeth Sowell, PhD, uses brain imaging techniques to better understand neural development. She is interested in how environmental toxins can affect the brain, particularly in children who develop autism spectrum disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

USC Investigators Participating in the Graduate Program

A number of USC faculty are involved in the program:

Nancy Castro, PhD, Irene Chiolo,  PhD, Dr. Matthew Dean, PhD, Ian Ehrenreich, PhD, Caleb Finch, PhD, Scott Fraser, PhD, Raffaella Ghittoni, PhD, Scott Kanoski, PhD, Matthew Michael, PhD, Jazlyn Mooney, PhD, Derrick Morton, PhD, Sergey Nuzhdin, PhD, and Lindsey Schier, PhD.