Targeting cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition in which the brain is damaged by as yet incompletely understood injuries believed to occur just before or very soon after birth. Possible causes include lack of oxygen, stoppage of blood flow, inflammation or viral infection.
Children with this condition, many of whom are born prematurely, may develop a large variety of disabilities including spasticity (stiffness and over-brisk reflexes), muscle weakness, poor coordination and speech difficulties. Some may also have cognitive deficits or epilepsy. These children may also develop curvature of the spine and other orthopaedic problems. A critical challenge to preventing this condition is the ability to repair the nerve fibers that have been damaged by lack of oxygen, or to prevent the lack of oxygen from killing so many cells in the brain.
CP is the most common disability affecting motor skills seen in school-age children. Shriners Hospital for Children offers treatment for the orthopaedic difficulties associated with CP, including surgery, therapies, movement analysis, and when appropriate, injections of botox. Many research projects are under way at Shriners Hospitals for Children to better understand the causes of CP, and develop appropriate interventions.
Here is a look at work being done at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia. Working in the research center, Tanya Ferguson, Ph.D., is interested in how to protect the brain from injury, particularly in CP. With the help of Wenbin Deng, Ph.D., at our northern California hospital, she has adapted a biologic model of CP and is determining how the brain damage occurs and how it might be prevented.
It is hoped that these efforts, together with findings from other projects under way, will lead to appropriate interventions to limit or stop the effects of CP, which occurs in 5,000 to 10,000 births annually in the U.S.