Kids become guinea pigs at Dallas Zoo

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on June 19, 2013 at 11:36 PM

DALLAS — Animals are typically the subjects of study at the Dallas Zoo.

This summer, however, the kids will be the guinea pigs.

Zoo summer camps are providing a ready supply of hundreds of research subjects to run a four-part agility course as part of a study being done by Scottish Rite Hospital.

Researchers are measuring balance, postural stability, coordination, power, speed, and agility of kids of all ages. Data from their functional ability will be used as a baseline to help children who are missing arms or legs to move better.

"Their performance on a test like this can help us determine whether their prosthetic component might be better than another," explained Kirsten Tulchin-Francis, a biomechanics expert at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. "We can also use this as a research tool to kind of assess the outcomes of their treatment."

The goal is to establish a pediatric-based CHAMP, or Comprehensive High-level Activity Mobility Predictor. There is a CHAMP test developed for military veterans who've suffered traumatic amputations, but nothing analogous for children.

"For me it was really easy," said 13-year-old Steffanie Weier. "But if I were missing something, I think it would be more difficult."

For the Dallas Zoo, the reward of the study comes from helping the community.

"Our camp program is a great opportunity for kids to come, learn about animals, and also leave knowing that they've helped another child," said Patty McGill, a vertebrate biologist at the Dallas Zoo.

Young study subjects hope the information their movements provide will make it possible for kids who are missing limbs to compete on an equal level.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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