Research Programs

Over 120 pediatric researchers with expertise and experience that span the breadth of medical disciplines comprise ACHRI’s roster of investigators who work to fulfill its mission to improve children’s health, development, and well-being through high-quality research. A few of our major research programs are described below.

Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center

The Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center is currently one of six national human nutrition centers funded through the United States Department of Agriculture. This center focuses specifically on diet and nutritional status of human development, using state-of-the-art procedures, equipment and facilities to determine how dietary factors and nutrition can affect brain development, learning, and attention span, as well as how early dietary intervention can prevent diseases of development and aging.

Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention

The Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention seeks to reduce the prevalence of birth defects in Arkansas and the nation and to reduce the economic, social, and psychological impact of birth defects at a state and national level. To accomplish this goal, the Center conducts research on the etiology and prevention of birth defects through the successful completion of high-caliber epidemiologic studies. In addition, the Center is establishing a Genomic Research Laboratory Core that will support the Center in its epidemiologic research. These resources will include high-throughput genotyping, mutation and polymorphism detection, physical mapping, sequencing and expression analysis.

Food Allergy Research Program

The Food Allergy Research Program at ACHRI has a long history of excellence in clinical and translational research for more than two decades.  During the past 15 years the food allergy research program has focused on developing novel therapeutics for children and adults with food allergy through innovative, multi-center studies within the NIH/NIAID-funded Consortium of Food Allergy Research and the NIH/NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network, as well as through research funded through private foundation grants and industry-sponsored clinical trials.  This collaborative work has resulted in significant progress toward effective immunotherapeutic approaches to the treatment of food allergy.  This multi-disciplinary team of investigators has also established the Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders Clinic and Research Program with the key mission to improve care, diagnostic capabilities and treatment for children with eosinophilic esophagitis through integrated network studies and the use of novel model systems. 

Asthma and Respiratory Disorders Research Program

The Asthma and Respiratory Disorders Research Program was established to address the growing problem of asthma morbidity among children.  In addition to strong clinical services in asthma and allergic disease, this program provides novel research approaches to addressing pathogenesis of disease, exploring new treatment modalities through clinical trials and translational research, and improving education and healthcare delivery through community-based health outcomes research.  The Lung Cell Biology Laboratory, through its collaborative NIH funding and multi-disciplinary investigative team, employs novel human model systems to investigate disease pathogenesis and explore potential targets for novel therapies.  The NIH-funded rural health asthma program, RADAR (Reducing Asthma Disparities in Arkansas), utilizes state-of-the-art technology including telehealth and mobile application systems to target high-risk, under-served populations through its innovative rural healthcare delivery research.

Pediatric Pharmacology Research Unit

In 1993, ACHRI was selected to house one of the first Pediatric Pharmacology Research Units (PPRU) funded by the NIH. These centers were established in response to concerns that many medications commonly used to treat a variety of childhood illnesses have not undergone carefully controlled clinical trials to establish dosing, safety, and effectiveness in children. The PPRU Network partners with the pharmaceutical industry and other investigators nationally and locally to generate dosing, safety, and efficacy data for the use of drugs in children. ACHRI’s PPRU is a collaborative effort with numerous pediatric investigators from the following specialties: neurology, critical care medicine, pulmonary, infectious disease, nephrology, cardiology, neonatology, and general pediatrics.

Acetaminophen Toxicity Laboratory

Acetaminophen, the most commonly drug used in the treatment of pain and fever worldwide, is a major cause of acute liver failure in the US. Although generally considered safe when used in manufacturer recommended doses, acetaminophen at excessive doses can result in fatal liver injury. Current diagnosis of acetaminophen toxicity is measurement of blood levels of acetaminophen within 24 hours of overdose. Published findings from ACHRI’s Acetaminophen Toxicity Research Laboratory show that acetaminophen adducts are present for up to 12 days following large overdoses in children and adults broadening the diagnostic window. Under funds from a Small Business Technology Transfer award by NIH, our investigators are developing approaches for the measurement of adducts that could be widely used in hospitals.

Autism Research Program

At ACHRI, leaders in the field of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are conducting basic, clinical, and translational research to help children affected by ASDs and their families. Their research works towards a deeper understanding of the psychological, behavioral, and physiological mechanisms that cause ASD and prevent recovery. Current research projects include measuring the impact of oxidative stress, mitochondrial function, and environmental stressors on ASD. The clinical program incorporates investigator-initiated and industry-sponsored clinical trials, development of an autism clinical diagnosis and care system, and collaborations with neurologists, psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, geneticists, and others. Together, these efforts will improve the development of novel behavioral and medical therapies to accelerate and optimize recovery of children diagnosed with ASD and develop strategies for preventing ASD from developing in high-risk children.

Environmental Exposure Research Program

An environmental exposure research program aimed at diminishing the impact of pollutants on human health and the environment was initiated using funds from the Arkansas Biosciences Institute (ABI), the major research component of the Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000. The program, established at the Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute, fostered key collaborations across the state and nation with researchers at institutions including Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. The research team is examining how exposure to common environmental toxicants triggers autoimmune disease and how developmental or early life exposure to certain chemicals can increase risk of adult disease. 

Childhood Obesity Prevention  Research Program

ACHRI's Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program conducts state-of-the-art clinical, translational, and community-based research and provides leadership and coordination between various local and state partners to obtain evidence that can be used to develop strategies leading to the prevention of childhood obesity. Specifically, the program 1) conducts research to further our understanding of the causes of childhood obesity, 2) partners with the state and communities to develop strategies for the prevention of childhood obesity in Arkansas, 3) works to develop an evidence base upon which state and local policymakers can create new approaches to reduce overweight and obesity in Arkansas children, and 4) serve as an educational resource center for childhood obesity prevention programming.