Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Researchers May Have Found Clue in Preventing Cerebral Palsy

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Five years ago, a group of researchers at Washington University Medical School discovered that elevated levels of an enzyme called Nmnat1 could prevent nerve damage. This got Philip Verghese, a postdoctoral research associate in Dr. David Holtzman's neurology lab thinking. Could Nmnat1 prevent damage in brain cells as well?
Verghese was thinking in particular of cerebral palsy. "Cerebral palsy is sometimes attributable to brain injury that stems from inadequate oxygen and blood flow to the brain before, during and soon after birth," says Verghese. If this goes on long enough, the brain cells start to die through a process called necrosis, where they swell and explode. The damage is permanent, and it can affect movement, vision, cogitation and communication. So far, there is no cure. But what if doctors could prevent the damage from the very beginning?

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