July 3, 2008

10,000 Involved in Cerebral Palsy Study

Researchers in Australia have begun the largest study of its kind in the world to understand the possible genetic causes of cerebral palsy.

The study -- requiring DNA cheek swabs of mothers and their children -- aims to gather genetic samples from 10,000 people across Australia.

One of the world's most serious complications during pregnancy and birth, cerebral palsy is a disability that affects one in every 500 children worldwide, and the consequences are life long. In the next two years, the researchers will test 5,000 participants from families affected by cerebral palsy, while the other 5,000 without an affected child will consist of a control group.

Our study will investigate a key issue behind cerebral palsy: whether genetic factors make women more vulnerable to environmental risks that affect the brain of their unborn child, research leader Alastair MacLennan of the University of Adelaide said in a statement.

Recent studies by our group suggest that cerebral palsy may be associated with genetic and other mutations that may increase blood clotting within the brain.

An association between cerebral palsy and different types of herpes virus infection -- such as cold sores and chicken pox -- has also been discovered in South Australian studies, the researchers said.