Cerebral Palsy Cure
One of the most common disabilities involving motor function in the formative years of a child is cerebral palsy. According to prevalence studies on cerebral palsy worldwide, it's estimated that anywhere between 1 and 4 children per a thousand live births have this debilitating condition.
In fact, according to ADDM or Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring--an offshoot of the CDC, one of every 323 children has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
What's more, nearly half, i.e., 41% of children diagnosed with the condition by the ADDM also had concomitant epilepsy.
While it's considered to be a non-progressive condition and the damages already caused by it aren't exacerbated; currently, there is no cerebral palsy cure. It's an incredibly complex condition which makes it even harder to manage and treat it.
That said, researchers have been making some headway in finding a viable cure.
Types of Cerebral Palsy
Even though scientists have known and understood how cerebral palsy affects the human brain and the difficulties that come with it since the 19th century, they are still likely decades away from a potential cure.
One of the main reasons for this is that cerebral palsy or CP isn't a single disorder but a group of concurrent disorders affecting a baby's cerebellum, thereby impairing their motor function. Physicians classify cerebral palsy depending on the movement disorder.
Depending on the region of the brain affected, motor function can be impaired because of either of these movement disorders. These disorders include spasticity (stiff muscles), dyskinesia (involuntary muscle movement), and ataxia (impaired coordination and balance).
CP can be categorized into four main types:
- Spastic CP, which, according to the CDC, is the most prevalent with 80% of diagnosed patients falling under this category is further categorized depending on which part or parts of the body it affects:
- Spastic diparesis/diplegia: which severely affects the legs while arms may be slightly affected or not at all.
- Spastic hemiparesis/hemiplegia: in this type of spastic CP, the arms are the most affected compared to the legs.
- Spastic quadriparesis/ quadriplegia: of the three spastic CP types, this one is by far has the most severe effects on movement and affects the face, trunk, and all four limbs. More often than not, It's accompanied by a host of other developmental impairments such as seizures, intellectual, visual, speech and hearing disabilities.
- Dyskinetic CP affects motor function in arms, hands, legs, and feet. It makes it difficult for patients to perform the simplest of movement, including walking and sitting.
- Ataxic CP usually affects balance and coordination. People suffering from this condition have a hard time balancing and also have trouble with movements that require a higher level of control, such as writing.
- Mixed CP: patients diagnosed with this condition show symptom of the other categories of cerebral palsy. The most common subcategory of mixed cerebral palsy is spastic-dyskinetic.
Each type of CP comes with its own set of complications and symptoms, which vary from patient to patient. Additionally, because CP has a variety of causes and symptoms which vary in their severity, it makes it difficult for scientists to find a cure.
The Road to the Cure
One of the leading research institutes spearheading research into cerebral palsy is NINDS or the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke—a subdivision of NIH or the National Institutes of Health.
The other organization that's conducted extensive research on CP, among other birth injuries such as hypoxic-ischemic and neonatal encephalopathy is the NICHD or the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development.
The medical community has greatly benefited from studies conducted by NINDS, and most of what is known today about CP comes from their research. Researchers have since been able to unearth new risk factors and causes, which has helped medical professionals fill in some of the blanks on CP.
Pharmacologists have been able to engineer new medications for spasticity and muscle stiffness. What's more, doctors now understand the causes and effects of brain damage in fetal development and how it leads to cerebral palsy.
Because of the multifaceted nature of CP, researchers have had to use a multipronged approach to find a cure. Scientists are now studying the DNA of children with CP as well as their family members.
It's done in an attempt to find genetic code markers that cause brain tissue abnormalities or deformities, which can lead to CP. Researchers are also investigating the events that occur in an infant's brain, which causes it to release harmful chemicals.
Such brain events include intracerebral bleeding, epileptic seizures, and complications of both the circulatory and respiratory systems. For example, medical scientists have found that intracerebral hemorrhaging in an infant initiates the release of dangerous quantities of glutamate.
It's a chemical that used to facilitate inter-neuron communication. However, in large quantities, it can lead to overstimulation and, subsequently, the destruction of neurons.
By investigating the toxic effects of releasing too much glutamate among other neurotransmitters in an infant's body, researchers can be able to develop or manufacture new drugs that will protect against these harmful effects.
Stem Cell Therapy
Currently, there are a variety of experimental treatment options available for cerebral palsy, but the most promising one revolves around stem cell therapy.
Stem cells are capable of developing into any type of cell line, including brain cells, and can be used to replaced damaged cells. Theoretically speaking, scientists can inject a patient with stem cells to trigger a response that replaces damaged cells or cell lines can be grown in-vitro and later inserted into the body to repair damaged cells.
After getting FDA approval, 11-year-old Drew Kijek, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, participated in a clinical trial where stem cells sourced from his umbilical cord were used to treat his condition in Detroit in 2013.
According to CBS radio, Drew Kijek had a severe form of CP that couldn't allow him to talk, walk or even hold his head up high for more than a couple of seconds at a time before going for treatment. After undergoing two rounds of stem cell therapy, Drew was to sit without support for the first time ever.
Get the Financial Compensation You Deserve
If you are struggling to provide the security and opportunities your child deserves, but the financial burden has become too heavy, please understand that you are not alone. If your child's disability could have been prevented if not for the actions of a negligent medical provider, you may have a valid legal claim for compensation.
Your child deserves the best medical treatments and physical therapy available - without concerns about the cost. If your child has cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence, call +1 (855) 925-1041 for a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options. Birth injury attorney Laura Brown has dedicated her career to helping families get the support they need to provide the best quality of life for their children after birth injuries due to medical negligence.
- Cerebral Palsy - Treatment Overview
- Cerebral Palsy Treatment - Mayo Clinic
- How is Cerebral Palsy Treated? - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke