In the last few months there's been a spate of studies about cerebral palsy, some of which will blow your mind—in a good way. Max's cerebral palsy is part of who he is, but if there were any way to diminish it and make his life easier, of course I'd want to. These studies give me hope—for Max and other kids with CP, and for babies at risk for it.
Found: a new cause for cerebral palsy. Experts have long considered birth mishaps a prime cause for cerebral palsy—but researchers have found that many cases may be due to genetic abnormalities. The research by Geisinger Health System, published in the acclaimed The Lancet Neurology journal, notes that scientists have discovered six genes that can cause CP when "disrupted." Inadequate oxygen supply to fetuses has long been the most studied factor for CP, the paper notes. Although fetal monitoring is now around to detect issues, and more C-sections are done to avoid difficult deliveries, the rate of CP has not decreased (2 to 3 per 1000 live births)—meaning, there must be another cause. "What we're finding is a growing body of evidence that suggests mutations in multiple genes are responsible for CP," says research scientist Andres Moreno De Luca, M.D., the paper's lead author. "In fact, we suspect these genetic abnormalities may also be the cause of some difficult births to begin with." The article recommends that doctors consider doing genetic testing when kids have CP or symptoms, and notes that there will most likely be an increase in research—and new ways to treat CP.
A drug that could treat cerebral palsy: Anti-inflammatory medication could help change the course of cerebral palsy, a study in the journal Science Translational Medicine finds. Researchers injected the drug into newborn rabbits with cerebral palsy; within five days, the bunnies were able to walk and hop, which they'd previously had trouble with. "This suggests that there is a window of opportunity to prevent cerebral palsy," says Roberto Romero, chief of the Perinatology Research Branch of the National Institutes of Health and author of the study. More research is needed to determine whether this could help humans, and if it can be effective when given beyond infancy.
Nintendo Wii as therapy? Yep. Active video games can help promote light to moderate physical activity in kids with cerebral palsy, finds a new study. The games "provide a low-cost commercially available system that can be strategically selected to address specific therapeutic goals," says lead investigator Elaine Biddiss, Ph.D., of Toronto's Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the University of Toronto. Researchers studied 17 kids with CP while they played Wii Boxing, Tennis, Bowling and Dance Dance Revolution, tracking data on their energy, muscle activity and motion. Although the games didn't build endurance or strength, they enabled kids to do moderate levels of physical activity. Experts say the repetitive action involved in active games might spark changes in the brains of kids with CP, in turn improving movement. That is, if their siblings share the Wii with them.