A new study finds a stronger genetic link to cerebral palsy than previously thought prompting researchers to recommend genetic testing for those with the most common form of the condition.

More than 20 percent of kids with hemiplegic cerebral palsy have rare copy-number variations — or structural alterations to their DNA — affecting genes instrumental in brain development, according to findings published this month in the journal Genetics in Medicine.

In about 5 percent of such children, researchers said the copy-number variation was likely the cause of their cerebral palsy.

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The findings come from a DNA analysis of 97 kids with hemiplegic cerebral palsy — which affects just one side of the body — and their parents. Results were compared to those from more than 10,000 people without the developmental disability.

The genetic variations were far more prevalent in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy — the most common form of the condition — than in the control group, the study indicated.

“We are getting closer to understanding the complex biology of CP and the potential ‘brain development’ genes that impact a child’s risk of developing it,” said Darcy Fehlings, a senior clinician scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto who worked on the study. “Clinically this supports the use of genomic testing as part of forming the work-up for a child with hemiplegic CP.”

Ultimately, researchers said understanding the genetics behind cerebral palsy could lead to new treatment options while also providing families better information about why their child developed the condition.