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In Breakthrough, Study Finds Cerebral Palsy Treatable


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Medication may be able to sharply alter the course of cerebral palsy, scientists said Wednesday, after finding that animals with the developmental condition responded remarkably to a new treatment.

Within five days of being given an anti-inflammatory drug, researchers found that newborn rabbits with cerebral palsy made dramatic progress. The animals were able to walk and hop, tasks they’d had great difficulty with prior to the treatment.

The findings, reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine, offer tremendous promise for people with the developmental disability, researchers said.

“This suggests that there is a window of opportunity to prevent cerebral palsy,” said Roberto Romero, chief of the Perinatology Research Branch of the National Institutes of Health and an author of the study.

For the study, researchers replicated in rabbits the brain inflammation often seen in people with cerebral palsy. They then used tiny molecules known as dendrimers to deliver an anti-inflammatory drug called N-acetyl-L-cysteine, or NAC, directly to the affected part of the brain.

The rabbits that received this treatment showed marked progress as compared to those who received saline or NAC alone without the targeted drug delivery, though benefits were seen in both groups that received medication.

“This is an exciting breakthrough and it certainly points toward new hope for those affected by cerebral palsy,” said Rangaramanujam Kannan, a chemical engineer at Wayne State University who worked on the study. “More questions need to be answered, but the potential is immense.”

Rabbits in the study were treated on their first day of life, so further research is needed to assess whether or not the benefits of the drug therapy may be seen in humans and how effective it might be when used beyond infancy, the researchers said.

In addition to cerebral palsy, researchers are also exploring the benefits of NAC for people with autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Comments (14 Responses)

  1. Jon Evans says:

    Discoveries such as this may have long term ramifications. Could, for instance, what we call disabilities eventually be declassified as disabilities, and if so, would recepients have to reimburse the government for benefits that were given to these recipients?

  2. Lesley says:

    Jon Evans: Really? A whole lot of people I care about may be able to walk and talk and live independently, and you’re worried about tax dollars they got?

  3. Annette says:

    To Jon Evans: It sounds as though the research is still years away from being complete. I don’t know how the government could come back and recoup their payments if the patient still has the disability or even if the treatment cured or lessened the symptoms. Imagine if a Medicaid/Medicare recipient had cancer—after attaining remission, they don’t try to recoup the benefits paid already in order to get the patient to that stage. Also, if this treatment is something that is used in the first few days of life, there wouldn’t have been any major benefits given yet. I think this research is wonderful—especially if it could help patients who have had the diagnosis for a few years, not just those who are diagnosed at birth.

  4. Monica Kennedy says:

    If this research would help my son to have a better quality of life, I’d pay the damn government back for the little, and I mean little, that they’ve given him over the past 20 years. But, if they did ask to have returned the little bit of assistance they’ve given him, and many others with CP, shame on the government.

  5. Helen says:

    Um, calm down, this treatment is only useful on the first day of life. I think Mr Evans comment should be removed as inappropriate.

  6. jane akelo says:

    this is a wonderful research, i live in Kenya where little or no research is being done on CP, my son has CP and even getting a place to take him for occupational therapy is quite difficult and very expensive, this could save as a lot.

  7. axpan says:

    Can we get on topic? This is important!
    I often have wondered why my daughter’s mobility improves when she’s sick. Has anyone else noticed that? I have thought that the medicine she’s taking for whatever illness she might have at the time might be affecting her on a neurological level. Jokingly I’ve said if we keep her on antibiotics and ibuprofen she’ll be fine. I’ve mentioned it to doctors but they didn’t listen to me. Maybe the anti-inflamatories do something even when someone is older?
    Just because the experiment was done on day old mice doesn’t mean that they are ruling out a possible effect later in life, they just don’t know yet.
    Have you had any experiences like ours?

  8. Isaack Onyonyi,Kenya says:

    This is a great move, alteast to the right direction.On whether it works on humans or not an at what stage in life, lets allow researchers time to do what they are best at…. reserach further.As a parent of a 2 year old boy living with CP,I’ll encourage the research team to surge on so that CP can be conquerred.

  9. Charanjit Kaur says:

    This is truly amazing work done! congratulations and goodluck for further researches. will be looking out for more papers on this! even if it helps a handful – its beautiful!

  10. Linda Hammill says:

    @axpan – My son has Angelman Syndrome and yes, we have often said our children seem to get better when on anti-biotics also. Currently, we are doing a trial on minocycline (anti-biotic/anti-inflammatory). Fragile X has also done trials with this med with fairly good results. Although these medications may not be a complete cure, any improvement helps.

  11. G Bain says:

    If this medication is being considered for Alsheimers, what about researching its affect on decreasing the progression or ameliorating the affects of schizophrenia and Parkinsons which are also neurological related disorders?

  12. Matt Palaszynski says:

    There are two important points to this study.

    1.) They used a new method of drug delivery that uses nano-particles (dendrimers) that crosses the blood brain barrier and allows the drug to enter the brain directly. This is the really new & exciting part of the study.
    2.) The drug delivered (NAC) is a neuroprotective meaning that it stops cells from dieing in the first 72 hours after the brain injury. So NAC would most likely only be useful in the first 72 hours. Actually, now its common practice to use whole body cooling in the first 72 hours which is also a neuroprotective. Right now, there is little evidence that anti-inflammatory drugs can help past the first 72 hours.

    Axpan, my daughter improves when she is on antibiotics as well! I have made the exact same observation. There might be something to that needs looking into.

    The BRIGHT Foundation is a parent run 501(c)3 that focuses on finding effective treatments for the chronic phase of CP, HIE, and other brain injuries.

  13. Amber Schmidlin says:

    I would love to see this help my mom who has cp and is currently having a very hard time getting around since she is getting older. She was diagnosed with a mild case as a child but now she needs to work harder to move and she is constantly in pain. I would love it if the medicine would help people no matter how old they are. She just turned 49 today and has a lot to look forward to.

  14. Judie Hutchison says:

    My grandson is 28 years old and we have tried ryesodomy, hyperbaric chamber, lots of therapy with little effect. I don’t think anyone realizes how we would love to help those we love unless they have someone they love with a disability. I would so much like to find something that would help him. He would love to have a job, a girlfriend just some of the things most people take for granted.

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