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The Child Wellness Lab is a pediatric research lab based at the Stanford School of Medicine. Our research is aimed at understanding and preventing unnecessary childhood stress and pain by developing and implementing non-invasive testing methods.  

Historically, the lab has developed methodology for assessing pain in infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). One of our future aims is to potentially measure levels of stress and wellness in children in receiving care in pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) by comparing cumulative levels of cortisol and oxytocin in with levels found in healthy children. In order to do so, we are currently in the process of establishing baseline levels of hair cortisol and oxytocin concentrations in healthy children across the Bay Area.  

Our overall mission is to identify ways of measuring pain and stress in vulnerable children who do not have the ability to ask for help.

What is the Hair Biomarkers Study?

To define the concept of wellness and resilience in childhood, particularly among preschool children, we are examining child behaviors, family and home environments, while also obtaining hair samples (from the back of their head) to measure the levels of hormones or proteins in these hair samples.

Phase-I of the Stanford Hair Biomarkers Study successfully enrolled 1,394 preschool children and their parents in to establish normative values for hair cortisol (a measure of stress) and hair oxytocin (a measure of social support) in healthy preschool children across the Bay Area. Such measurements help us to establish wellness parameters and normal ranges for hair cortisol or other biomarkers in healthy preschool children, and to differentiate them from critically ill or injured children.

Our ultimate aim is to measure the cumulative effects of stressful and supportive experiences in vulnerable children, by comparing levels of their hair hormones with those found in healthy children. In our next phase, Stanford Hair Biomarkers Study Phase-II, we will enroll 600 healthy children aged 6-24 months (under 2 years old) from English- or Spanish-speaking families living in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda Counties. 

Want to participate in Phase II of the Hair Biomarkers Study?

Your child will be followed regularly at 6-month intervals for 2 years. We will painlessly obtain hair samples as well as growth measures (height, weight, etc.) from your child. Here are the study details:

  • Parents/guardians complete a study interest form
  • Screening call (5-15 min) to assess eligibility
  • Written informed consent is completed virtually or in-person
  • Labeled study kits are mailed after the first clinic visit
  • Child hair samples collected painlessly at five time points
  • Optional parent hair samples collected at two time points
  • Parents complete online study questionnaires prior to each visit

Ready to participate or have additional questions?

Complete the parent interest form below and a research coordinator will contact you soon.