New hope for cerebral palsy prevention

Aug 02, 2010
From left: Professor Alastair MacLennan from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute and singer Jimmy Barnes demonstrate how to do a cheek swab for the world's largest study into the genetic causes of cerebral palsy. Photo by Chris Sprod.

University of Adelaide researchers are a step closer to finding a link between genetic susceptibility to cerebral palsy and a range of environmental risk factors during pregnancy, including infections and pre-term delivery.

During National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week (August 1-7), Professor Alastair MacLennan from the University's Robinson Institute says their research shows that who are genetically susceptible to infections and other environmental hazards could trigger cerebral palsy in their unborn babies.

"Major risk factors for cerebral palsy are fetal growth restriction, pre-term delivery, fetal infections, antepartum haemorrhage and multiple pregnancies," Professor MacLennan says.

Professor MacLennan and his team of researchers are leading the largest study in the world into the genetic causes of cerebral palsy.

"This new hypothesis is a significant step to preventing cerebral palsy. We may now be able to identify pregnancies most at risk, avoid environmental triggers and develop strategies to prevent cerebral palsy, which occurs in 1:400-500 births."

Professor MacLennan says the incidence of cerebral palsy has remained unchanged in 50 years, despite a sixfold increase in elective and emergency caesarean deliveries, and many advances in perinatal medicine.

"No intervention around labour at term has been shown to reduce the risk of cerebral palsy. The outdated assumption that cerebral palsy is often due to birth asphyxia is largely discredited," he says.

The team has been recruiting Australian families to provide genetic samples in the form of cheek swabs to help unravel the mystery of how are linked to cerebral palsy.

DNA from more than 4000 swabs has been extracted to date and researchers are currently analysing these data. "The speed of this research is hampered only by limited funding," Professor MacLennan says.

"If a to cerebral palsy is confirmed, then we may be able to develop preventative measures, including specific genetic tests, gamete/embryo selection, gene therapy, and immunisations against viral triggers."

University of Adelaide researchers have previously shown that magnesium sulphate may help reduce the risk of in very pre-term pregnancies. Head cooling in selected newborn infants is also being tested.

Explore further: US hunts contacts of seriously ill Ebola patient

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

10,000 people in world-first cerebral palsy study

Jul 02, 2008

Researchers from the University of Adelaide, Australia, have launched the largest study of its kind in the world in a bid to better understand the possible genetic causes of cerebral palsy.

Preterm birth: Magnesium sulphate cuts cerebral palsy risk

Jan 21, 2009

Magnesium sulphate protects very premature babies from cerebral palsy, a new study shows. The findings of this Cochrane Review could help reduce incidence of the disabling condition, which currently affects around one in ...

Incidence of Cerebral Palsy on Rise in United States

Feb 08, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Cerebral palsy (CP) has increased in infants born prematurely in the United States, according to data presented by researchers from Loyola University Health System (LUHS). These findings were reported at ...

Researchers use newborn blood data to study cerebral palsy

Sep 01, 2009

A statewide team of researchers led by a Michigan State University epidemiologist are hoping Michigan's archive of newborn blood spots will help them uncover the causes of cerebral palsy, the most common disabling motor disorder ...

Recommended for you

US hunts contacts of seriously ill Ebola patient

32 minutes ago

US health officials scoured the Dallas area Wednesday for people—including schoolchildren—who came in contact with a Liberian man who was diagnosed with Ebola, as it emerged a hospital mix-up saw him initially turned ...

Australia lifts Ebola donation to $16 million

42 minutes ago

Australia more than doubled its donation to the fight against Ebola in West Africa to 18 million Australian dollars ($16 million) on Thursday, but resisted demands to send personnel.

UN says Syria vaccine deaths was an NGO 'mistake'

12 hours ago

The recent deaths of Syrian children after receiving measles vaccinations was the result of a "mistake" by a non-governmental partner who mixed in a muscle relaxant meant for anesthesia, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general ...

First US child dies from enterovirus D68

13 hours ago

A child in the northeastern US state of Rhode Island has become the first to die from an ongoing outbreak of a respiratory virus, enterovirus D68, health officials said Wednesday.

User comments : 0