Study Ties Cerebral Palsy To Inflammation And Blood-Clotting Abnormalities

Groundbreaking new research provides strong evidence that inflammation and clotting abnormalities may be important causes of cerebral palsy (CP) in full-term babies, who account for about half of all children with this disorder. The study may lead to ways of identifying babies at risk for CP and ultimately to new therapies that might prevent brain damage in some children.

The new study examined levels of inflammation markers called cytokines, and of coagulation (blood-clotting) factors, in blood taken from infants shortly after birth. The results were dramatic. All of the babies who later developed CP had higher concentrations of five different cytokines in their blood than any babies who did not go on to develop the disorder. Many of these babies also had greater-than-normal concentrations of one or more coagulation factors.

"These factors appear to play a role in several different processes that can lead to CP," says Karin B. Nelson, M.D., a child neurologist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and lead author of the new study.

The other authors include James M. Dambrosia, Ph.D., of the NINDS, Judith K. Grether, Ph.D., of the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program, and Terry M. Phillips, D.Sc., Ph.D., of George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The results are published in the October 1998 issue of Annals of Neurology(1).

"We've applied state-of-the-art technology to the study of cerebral palsy," says Dr. Grether. "Our long-term goal is to provide answers that can lead to prevention of CP. This study may be a big step in that direction."

The findings may point to ways of preventing CP or lessening its severity. This disorder affects about 500,000 Americans and is caused by faulty development or damage to the motor areas of the brain. Despite improvements in obstetric and perinatal medicine in recent decades, there has been no decrease in the number of full-term babies wh

Contact: Natalie Larsen
(301) 496-5751
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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