Photo of Sharon Landesman Ramey, Ph.D.

A message from Sharon Landesman Ramey, Ph.D.

C-PROGRESS is here! On behalf of our team of principal co-investigators, I am pleased to announce the establishment of a new NIH-funded National Pediatric Rehabilitation Resource Center.

Our nation’s first and only center dedicated to promoting clinical trials research in the rapidly expanding field of pediatric rehabilitation is now being launched. I am pleased to direct the new center – a partnership between Virginia Tech (VT), The Ohio State University (OSU), and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Although the formal name is The National Pediatric Rehabilitation Resource Center, our team leading the center has adopted a shorthand name – C-PROGRESS – an acronym for the Center for Pediatric Rehabilitation: Growing Research, Educating, and Sharing Science. C-PROGRESS captures the team’s primary objective of “seeing progress” in the rapidly emerging field of pediatric rehabilitation science. Our investigators in Roanoke, VA and Columbus, OH have worked together for nearly a decade, leading multiple NIH clinical trials of innovative intensive forms of medical rehabilitation for children with cerebral palsy and infants with Perinatal Stroke.

In the past 15 years, pediatric rehabilitation research has grown tremendously. The C-PROGRESS team predicts the next 5 years will introduce both consolidation of research goals and recruitment of new investigators so that rigorous and innovative Phase II and Phase III clinical trials can launch and produce impactful findings.  C-PROGRESS will help stimulate clinical trials of pediatric rehabilitation that address an array of conditions that impact hundreds of thousands of children each year in the U.S. alone. These include prenatal and infant stroke, cerebral palsy, traumatic and acquired brain injury, many neuromuscular disorders, including genetic and contagion-induced diseases. Many of these childhood conditions were once relegated to the categories of “static,” “degenerative,” and “incurable;” today, the scientific bases for such poor prognoses are being challenged/re-examined. The C-PROGRESS team contends there was never a full-court press to learn how far these children might progress with the right types and amounts of rehabilitation – at the right times in development.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Center of Child Health and Human Development at NIH is home for a network of six rehabilitation resource centers – a network of resource support centers that C-PROGRESS is joining with direct oversight from the National Medical Rehabilitation Research Center (NMRRC). Dr. Ralph Nitkin, a senior scientist at the NMRRC, envisions the new pediatric center as one that will work closely with the other resource centers, providing a full life course perspective to the field of medical rehabilitation.  Co-funding for C-PROGRESS also comes from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

In applying for this center, our C-PROGRESS team contends there are many unique challenges and opportunities in pediatric rehabilitation that distinguish it from the much larger field of adult rehabilitation. Key is the phenomenal potential for very young brains to be “plastic” – that is, young children’s brains and behavior can develop in dynamic ways that result in more optimal building and functioning of the child’s entire nervous system that contribute to the child’s flexible behavioral repertoire. Especially for infants and young children, acquiring critical neuromotor skills early in life affords a sense of accomplishment that may stimulate the development of compensatory and new functional neural networks that go beyond the traditional normative motor networks.

Our C-PROGRESS team often has observed and reported “spill-over effects” when testing neuromotor treatments – such as improvement in children’s speech and language, social understanding and interactions, curiosity, emotional self-regulation, and advances in learning and cognition. C-PROGRESS thus is a dream come true for our team, so we can help synthesize and share the new discoveries, the new technologies, and the new clinical study designs available in pediatric rehabilitation research.

– Sharon Landesman Ramey, Ph.D.