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Cerebral Palsy May Run In Families, Study Finds


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Genes may play a bigger role in cerebral palsy than previously thought with researchers finding heightened risk in siblings and other relatives of those with the condition.

In a study looking at more than 2 million children born in Norway between 1967 and 2002, researchers found that the likelihood of cerebral palsy appears greater among those most closely related to individuals with the developmental disability.

Twins face the highest risk. When one child has the condition, their twin has a 15 times greater chance of also being affected. Meanwhile, full siblings face a six to ninefold increased risk and half-siblings of those with cerebral palsy are up to three times more likely to have it too, according to findings published this week in the British Medical Journal.

The elevated odds also extend to parents with cerebral palsy who are 6.5 times more likely than those who are unaffected to have a child with the condition. Cousins face a 1.5 times increased risk, the study found.

Cerebral palsy has previously been linked to several factors including premature birth, infection, abnormal growth and lack of oxygen at birth, but researchers said this is the first study of its size to consider how the condition runs in families.

“Our data suggest that cerebral palsy includes a genetic component, with a stronger recurrence among relatives with closer genetic relationship,” the team of Norwegian and American researchers wrote in their findings. “This offers additional evidence that the underlying causes of cerebral palsy extend beyond the clinical management of delivery.”

In an accompanying editorial, Peter Rosenbaum of McMaster University said much remains to be understood about cerebral palsy and that even among twins the risk of recurrence remains relatively small.

“The elusive search for the causes of neurodisabilities such as cerebral palsy is far from over,” Rosenbaum wrote. “While we wait, however, we must remember that cerebral palsy remains a relatively infrequent occurrence at about 2 per 1,000 live births in developed countries.”

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Comments (7 Responses)

  1. Theresa says:

    Umm, twins have a higher risk of CP not because they are genetically related but because the share the same womb and comete for resources. Siblings having CP would be more likely due to mothers health.

  2. David P. Rundle says:

    I come from a big family with many cousins. I doubt this.

  3. harrison Dixon says:

    Is it possible that the clinical and delivery issues that cause CP run in families? Was this eliminated in the numbers that drove the research?

  4. vmgillen says:

    This study requires, well, a lot of study before it is anything other than bogus, on face.

  5. Amy Marchand Collins says:

    My (fraternal) twins both have CP. Not because of genetics, but because they were 24-week preemies with many of the complications that being premature can include. It is not clear from this summary that researchers excluded any of the known risk factors for CP, such as premature birth, lack of oxygen, etc. Even the fact that siblings and half siblings carry a heightened risk may be explained by these factors- mothers who deliver a child prematurely are known to be at greater risk of having another. Association is not causation, and nothing in this article indicates a genetic component to CP. Nor does it rule it out, but it is a great leap to go from a higher incidence to assuming genetic causes.

  6. Mike Matthews says:

    I really wish they didn’t make their findings public until they had more data. I have cerebral palsy and many people through out my life ask me if I can pass CP to my children. My wife and I have a 4 year old son and he does not have cp. Articles like this will just keep confusing misinformed people. The question I now get is “When will your son start to show signs of CP like you?” I’m always advocating for disability awareness and I really wish these “findings” were tested longer. There is so many misconceptions out there about CP and other disabilities.

  7. Bill chaffee says:

    I question statistics on disabilities because of the misdiagnosis problem. I was born on Feb. 24, 1951 and I was first diagnosised as having cerebral palsy on sept. 6, 1988. I remember that date because is was three weeks before my father died. My father had said to me “I think your problems are more imaginary than real”. I did reading up on the condition and I think that the label is correct, and that many of the other labels that I recieved are wrong.

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