The Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition faculty at Boston Children’s Hospital provides general and subspecialty care to patients with a full range of gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary, pancreatic, and nutritional problems. Boston Children’s is one of the top pediatric gastroenterology programs globally, and a destination for many patients and families seeking information about the diagnosis and management of illness. Centers of Excellence include the centers for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Childhood Liver Disease, Gastrointestinal Motility, Therapeutic Endoscopy, and Clinical Nutrition. These specialized programs provide innovative clinical care, enable fellows to benefit from concentrated training within a particular discipline, and facilitate integration of basic and translational research into clinical practice.
Boston Children’s Hospital is adjacent to the Harvard Medical School campus. In addition, within a few square blocks of the hospital is a dense concentration of research facilities, including the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Countway Medical Library, and over 20 Harvard-affiliated hospitals and research institutions, including the Harvard Institute of Medicine, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, and the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Blood Disorders Center. The proximity of these programs and institutes promotes unparalleled cross-fertilization and collaboration.
Shuttle buses connect the medical school campus and Harvard University’s main campus in Cambridge and run every 30 minutes.
Gastrointestinal Cell & Mucosal Immunology Biology Laboratories
The GI Cell and Developmental Biology Laboratories are located on the sixth floor of the Enders Research Building at Boston Children’s Hospital. These laboratories of National Institutes of Health-funded principal investigators form a consortium of scientists focused on gastrointestinal research. The laboratories also house the administrative core and two scientific cores of the Harvard Digestive Diseases Center. Active research programs include those of the following principal investigators:
Harvard Digestive Diseases Center
The Harvard Digestive Diseases Center (HDDC) is a consortium of more than 60 investigators engaged in basic research relevant to digestive diseases. The scientific focus of the HDDC is epithelial structure and function. Four broad areas of epithelial research are represented:
- cell function in digestion, absorption, and malabsorption
- epithelial-microbial interactions in the pathogenesis of infectious diseases
- cell interactions involved in host defense and vaccine development
- epithelial cell growth, differentiation, and carcinogenesis
The HDDC is located in the GI Cell and Developmental Biology Laboratories at Boston Children’s. HDDC is directed by Dr.Wayne Lencer, Professor of Pediatrics. The Associate Director is Dr. Richard Blumberg (Brigham and Women’s). The Harvard Digestive Diseases Center Grant has an annual budget of more than $1 million (direct and indirect costs), and the annual research base for active members totals $15 million. In a typical year, HDDC labs train more than 250 postdoctoral fellows and 30 predoctoral students. More than 20 associate members (young investigators not yet independently funded) are also involved.
Five scientific cores support the research of center members and their trainees:
- microscopy and histopathology
- epithelial cell and mucosal immunology
- gnotobiotic mice, microbiology, and metagenomics
- clinical and translational research program
- biorepository and data registry for human material
The HDDC funds pilot-feasibility grants targeted at young investigators, and competitive mini-sabbatical awards are available to foster collaborations and acquire innovative technologies. An enrichment program includes a seminar series focused on epithelial cell biology, mucosal immunology, microbiology, and adult and pediatric gastroenterology, as well as an annual half-day mini symposium focused on recent advances in basic research relevant to digestive diseases.
Centers of Excellence
The Aerodigestive Center provides long-term care and state-of-the-art medical management treatment to children with common and rare disorders involving the respiratory and digestive system. These include functional and structural disorders of the upper gastrointestinal tract disease and lungs due to congenital or developmental abnormality or injury, swallowing dyscoordination, feeding problems, genetic diseases, and neurodevelopmental disability.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center
The Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, directed by Dr. Scott Snapper, is an integrated, multidisciplinary research, teaching, and care program that addresses the unique features of childhood-onset inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The center is comprised of seven core programs:
- basic research in epithelial cell and molecular biology and the molecular biology of the immune response
- clinical research
- cancer biology
- surveillance, outcomes research
- health care policy
The goals of center activities are to stimulate interactions between investigative units at Boston Children’s currently working in areas relevant to IBD and to initiate new projects in laboratories not yet studying IBD. In addition to ongoing data sessions and conferences in the individual laboratories, conferences on Wednesday afternoons focus on discussions of projects, protocols, and plans for the center, allowing fellows and staff to participate actively in IBD research. The center is supported in part by core facilities and pilot feasibility funding from the Digestive Diseases Center at Boston Children’s.
The Celiac Disease Program and Support Group
The Celiac Disease Program at Boston Children’s Hospital offers diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease. The team includes some of the leading experts in the country in diagnosing celiac disease and in helping families manage celiac disease with a gluten-free lifestyle. We also have a family support group and a Celiac Family Health Education resource.
Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Center
The Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Center at Boston Children’s Hospital is a subspecialty program within the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. This program provides state-of-the-art care and evaluation to children with motility and functional bowel disorders. Faculty evaluate and manage infants, children, adolescents, and young adults with a wide variety of disorders resulting from abnormal motility or sensation of the gastrointestinal tract. Patients with motility disorders are referred to our center from across New England, the U.S., and worldwide. The center also has a large educational and research component.
Gastroenterology Procedure Unit
The Gastroenterology Procedure Unit (GPU) at Boston Children’s Hospital is a full-service unit providing an array of diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy procedures in a safe, comfortable environment.
Our team works closely with other departments and divisions in the hospital to accommodate routine and expedient care. Patients are generally referred to the GPU through the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.
Liver Transplant Program
The Pediatric Liver Transplant Program at Boston Children’s Hospital evaluates children who are candidates for transplantation, and manages the care of children who have received transplanted livers.
Approximately 14 liver transplants are performed annually at Boston Children’s Hospital. The medical and surgical staff provide expertise in whole organ transplants, reduced-size liver transplants, split liver transplants, and related living donor transplants.
Clinical Nutrition Service
The Clinical Nutrition Service at Boston Children’s Hospital provides comprehensive nutrition consultation services for patients of all ages in inpatient and ambulatory (outpatient) settings. Our staff use innovative diagnostic and evaluation techniques to develop appropriate nutrition plans for infants, children, and adolescents who suffer from various disorders.
Growth and Nutrition Program
The Growth and Nutrition Program was established in July 1984. It was one of the first multidisciplinary team programs in the country to address the problem of childhood malnutrition, formerly known as failure to thrive. Our Growth and Nutrition Program is supported through a contract with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which funds specific growth and nutrition sites throughout the state.
The center is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of specialists who provide comprehensive assessment, treatment, and follow-up.
Center for Advanced Intestinal Rehabilitation
The Center for Advanced Intestinal Rehabilitation (CAIR) at Boston Children’s Hospital is one of the world’s premier programs to treat short bowel syndrome, a complex and often devastating disorder caused by the loss of part of the small bowel. Treatment options may include nutritional management, medical services, or surgical services.
Intestine and Multivisceral Transplant Program
The Intestine and Multivisceral Transplant Program at Boston Children’s Hospital evaluates children who are potential candidates for small intestine transplantation, small intestine/liver transplantation, and multivisceral transplantation. The program also manages the care of children who have received these transplants.
General Clinical Research Center (GCRC)
The Institutional Centers for Clinical and Translational Research (ICCTR), funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1964, serves as the central focus of clinical research at Boston Children’s Hospital. Its mission is to provide an optimal setting for multidisciplinary clinical research, ensuring the timely translation of scientific knowledge into effective patient care. The ICCTR is located in the hospital’s main building and has dedicated space to support inpatient and ambulatory studies. All patient rooms can accommodate for one parent or guardian to stay overnight with their child. The unit has a well-equipped treatment room, medication room, play-activity area, dining room, nourishment center, and metabolic kitchen that supports our protocol needs. Ambulatory ICCTR research visits occur in adjacent spaces on Pavilion 6. Support provided by the ICCTR includes a core laboratory, informatics, biostatistics, nutrition, and phenotype/genotype core programs.