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Research at Shriners Children's Boston

Thanks to the dedication of our physicians and researchers, the dream that scientific breakthroughs will give doctors the tools and medicines to cure disease is becoming reality.

Damage to your child’s skin, whether due to an injury or a longer-term condition, may not only cause them discomfort, it can also lead to other medical complications. At Shriners Children's Boston, our director of research, Mehmet Toner, Ph.D., leads doctors and scientists as they work to find new ways to heal children with burns and other complex wounds and skin conditions.

Originally focused primarily on burns, the founding of The Howard Green Center for Children’s Skin Health and Research in 2016, has allowed our team to expand their research in regenerative medicine to include a number of conditions affecting the skin. The Howard Green Center is a first-of-its-kind facility dedicated to regenerative treatments for children with burns, skin and dermatological conditions.

The work being done through this center has established Shriners Children's Boston as a premier destination for world-class care in pediatric burns, reconstructive, laser and plastic surgery and specialized wound care and skin disorders.

Our physicians and researchers are actively engaged in ongoing research and are continually developing new and innovative ways to treat and care for children. The research areas we're currently involved in include:

  • Organ Reengineering
  • Organs-on-Chips
  • Neutrophil Traffic in Microfluidic Mazes
  • Laboratory of Molecular and Pharmacological Imaging
  • Burn-Induced Metabolic Dysfunction and Inflammatory Response
  • Engineered Skin Replacements
  • Circulating Tumor Cells
  • Multi-Host Bacterial Pathogenesis and Anti-Virulence Therapeutics
  • Factors Influencing Tolerance/Rejection of Skin in Face/Hand Transplantation

The Shriners Children's Boston research program is an integral part of the system-wide Shriners Children's research program, driven to find cures and treatments that allow us to provide exceptional care to children everywhere.

Preschool LIBRE (Life Impact Burn Recovery Evaluation) Study

Colleen Ryan, M.D., FACS, and the burn outcomes lab is currently seeking parents of children who are burn survivors to participate in a survey-based study. This study is being used to evaluate different health outcomes related to your child's physical and social recovery after their burn injury.

If you are a parent of a child under the age of 5, who is recovering from a burn injury and are interested in contributing to this research by completing a one-time survey, please contact Gabby Grant at 617-371-4929 or email us for more information.

Burn Research

Survival rates for patients with burn injuries have improved dramatically over the past 50 years as a result of burn research. Doctors and scientists at Shriners Children's Boston are responsible for many of the advances in pediatric burn care. Studies we're working on include areas such as the body's reaction to severe stress and diagnostic tools that can be used at the bedside when treating critically injured children.

When your child comes to our hospital with a burn injury, our medical teams apply their years of clinical research and discoveries to their care. Shriners Children's current burn care research includes:

  • Individual response to drug treatment
  • Organ failure
  • Environmental influences
  • Bedside diagnostics

Complex Wounds and Skin Disorder Research

Complex Wounds and Skin Disorder Research

Row Content: Much of the research being done in regenerative medicine for burn care has naturally allowed our researchers to explore new ways to treat and manage a variety of other difficult wound and skin disorders not caused by burn injury. Some of the other skin conditions that we are applying our research to include:

  • Frostbite and other cold injuries
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • Skin infections and injuries
  • Severe skin reactions requiring burn care

The Howard Green Center for Children's Skin Health and Research

Founded in 2016, The Howard Green Center for Children's Skin Health and Research is dedicated to making breakthroughs in regenerative medicine and developing innovative treatments that move from our lab to our patients’ bedsides quickly.

Howard Green, M.D. was a pioneer in regenerative medicine. He was the first to grow skin grafts using a patient’s own cells, one of the earliest examples of stem cell therapy. The first grafts from cultured skin were used to treat two patients with life-threatening burns at Shriners Children’s Boston in the early 1980s. The patients survived and Dr. Green’s discovery forever improved the life expectancy of patients with acute burns. He dedicated his career to furthering his understanding of skin regeneration to improve the outcomes for patients with devastating skin injuries and conditions.

Dr. Green held distinguished positions at New York University School of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and most recently as the George Higginson Professor of Cell Biology and chairman of the department of cell biology at Harvard Medical School. He was a 2010 recipient of the prestigious Warren Alpert Foundation Prize.

Following Dr. Green's passing, his wife Mrs. Rosine Kauffmann Green helped Shriners Children's Boston establish this center to ensure that her late husband's legacy continues to live on in the city where so much of his research was conducted and where his work impacted so many lives.

Research at Shriners Children's Boston

Research is at the heart of Shriners Children's Boston. The work happening in our labs and as part of our clinical studies powers our incredible patient outcomes. Our research has contributed to the care of patients with burn injuries and other complex skin conditions around the world. We are proud of our history of contributions and excited for the future of clinical discoveries made at our hospital that will benefit future patients.
View Transcript

Eric C. Liao:

Well, one of the really unique things about the Shriners system and especially Shriners Hospitals for Children to Boston is to focus on not only the patient but how to make care better for the patient in the future. And that's where research comes in.


Eileen Skinner:

It is an exceptionally wide scope of research, everything from research-related to burns, of course, but also what I call basic research around things like inflammatory process and how white cells respond to trauma and all sorts of things that ultimately become part of that whole base of knowledge for new treatments and new drugs and new techniques.


Mehmet Toner:

We've done this for decades, and the best example is artificial skin that's now used in saving millions of lives today is developed at Shriners. And it's changed the way we can treat these patients. And many of them, we can very quickly cover their injury and they survive now.


Robert Sheridan:

Now that the children really are much more reliably surviving, what can we do to make them happy and productive and fully successful?


Mehmet Toner:

The mission of our research program is very simple. We do want to help ameliorate the life of these kids and save their lives. As a result, the research is very much linked to clinical activities. And we all live in the same space here, clinicians and scientists. We have different timescales of doing things. Clinicians need to do their job today to save the lives. And we need to think about how we can make their lives better tomorrow in the future.


Eric C. Liao:

We have access to top clinicians and scientists. Whenever we think of a clinical problem or scientific problem, and we want to collaborate, I can just walk down a hall and knock on a door, and the specialists in whatever field is abound in our area and we can work on projects together. So the talent pool here, both in terms of investigators and the researchers, is so high that we're able to put together these projects to then really make a difference for patients going forward.


Mehmet Toner:

It's quite an exciting environment where we try to think about the things for the next 5, 10, 20 years while our clinicians are saving lives today.


Funding and Support for our Research Projects

Our research is made possible through funding and grants from:

  • Mrs. Rosine Kauffmann Green in memory of Dr. Howard Green
  • Shriners Children’s internal research funding
  • Other philanthropic and industrial sources

We are grateful for the generous gift from Mrs. Rosine Kauffmann Green, which helped Shriners Children's Boston establish The Howard Green Center for Children’s Skin Health and Research in 2016. This center has become the cornerstone of our team's research and is a testament to Ms. Kauffmann Green's husband, Dr. Howard Green's commitment to regenerative medicine for skin conditions. Dr. Green's work has transformed the way that we care for patients with skin conditions.

Funding from our generous donors provides new hope and opportunities for children with burns, skin disorders and dermatological conditions.

Recognized Leader in Burn and Skin Condition Research

Our team authors over 100 papers per year, with their work published in a number of prestigious journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science Reports, Nature Biotechnology and Nature Biomedical Engineering. Around 10% of the papers presented at the American Burn Association's annual meeting are written by Shriners Children’s Boston researchers.

Two medical personnel creating a skin graft

A World-Class Team of Researchers

Shriners Children's Boston is a leading research facility in biotechnical engineering, as well as other fields. With around 100 staff members, including a quarter from Harvard Medical School, each member of our team is highly accomplished in their respective field of study.

Two female researchers in the lab

State-Of-The-Art Research Facilities

Our team conducts their research in a 30,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility, equipped with innovative technology like our positron emission tomography (PET) machine. This technology allows our researchers to explore metabolic disorders, post-injury psychological disorders and develop new approaches to targeted drug therapy.

Female researcher in the lab

We Understand the Unique Medical Needs of Children

We provide vital, pioneering treatment from birth to age 18. Here, children have the opportunity to be evaluated and treated by doctors recognized as the best by their peers.