Reversing Cerebral Palsy
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Reversing Cerebral Palsy

A child’s symptoms can start with a weak cry, which seems normal, until other symptoms appear such as an overly floppy or stiff body and not being able to swallow properly. These are among the early signs of a group of disorders called Cerebral Palsy, or CP, which is the number one cause of motor disability in American children. Physical therapy and drugs help with symptoms, but can’t reverse the brain damage, which happens mostly in the womb.

Now a study using a nano-particle has successfully repaired damaged brains in rabbits with CP. The tiny particle is small enough to deliver anti-inflammatory drugs to the brain’s over-active neurons, a primary cause of the disease.

Children with CP have varying types of brain damage. The causes can be genetic mutations, maternal infections that affect fetal brain development, lack of oxygen to the fetus or baby, or traumatic brain injury.

In many of these cases, two types of immune cells in the brain become activated: microglia and astrocytes. They protect the brain during infection but do damage by going into overdrive, destroying healthy cells. Controlling neuronal inflammation is challenging because most medications can’t get past the blood brain barrier. Researchers found a way by using a nanoparticle called a dendrimer.

It’s two thousand times smaller than a red blood cell. The team affixed a powerful antioxidant to the dendrimer, then injected this nanoparticle in newborn rabbits with CP. The drug-laced dendrimers made their way to the brain and were immediately swallowed by overactive immune cells.

Within five days the rabbits were significantly better and had motor skills similar to healthy rabbits. An autopsy revealed their brains had less scarring and cell death. This suggests the new treatment has the potential to reverse this disease.

 


For more information…

Cerebral palsy
The Mayo Clinic offers this comprehensive overview of symptoms, causes and treatment of cerebral palsy.

Nanomaterials offer hope for cerebral palsy
The esteemed scientific journal Nature offers this layman-friendly article on the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study which used dendrimers to transport an anti-inflammatory drug across the blood-brain barrier.

Nano-devices that cross blood-brain barrier open door to treatment of cerebral palsy, other neurologic disorders
ScienceDaily — "A team of scientists from Johns Hopkins and elsewhere have developed nano-devices that successfully cross the brain-blood barrier and deliver a drug that tames brain-damaging inflammation in rabbits with cerebral palsy."