February 24, 2009

Compounds may prevent cerebral palsy

Chemists at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., say two compounds they developed may be effective in protecting against cerebral palsy.

The results were just stunning, absolutely amazing, study leader Richard B. Silverman said in a statement. There was a remarkable difference between animals treated with a small dose of one of our compounds and those that were not.

The findings, published online in the journal Annals of Neurology, suggest that a preventive strategy for cerebral palsy may be feasible for humans in the future.

The study findings include that:

-- None of the fetuses born to animals treated with the two compounds died; more than half of those born to untreated animals died.

-- Eighty-three percent of animals treated with one of the compounds were born normal, with no cerebral palsy characteristics.

-- Sixty-nine percent of animals treated with the other compound were born normal.

Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the brain before, during or shortly after birth, although it typically is not diagnosed until after age 1.

The new compounds developed inhibit an enzyme found in brain cells that produces nitric oxide, thus lowering nitric oxide levels. At normal levels, nitric oxide acts as a neurotransmitter and is important to neuronal functioning, but at high levels it has been shown to damage brain tissue, Silverman said. An overabundance of nitric oxide is believed to play a role in cerebral palsy.