Cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological disorder that results from a lack of oxygen to the brain during infancy or early childhood, affects roughly 1 in 323 kids in the U.S. each year. CP affects body movement and muscle coordination, leading to tight muscles and stiff legs, which make it difficult for kids to walk on their own.
While other studies have focused on genes and CP, a new study has yielded the biggest breakthrough: that "at least 14 percent of cerebral palsy cases are likely caused by a genetic mutation," reports Science Daily. Researchers in Adelaide, Australia and Houston, Texas spent 20 years analyzing data about DNA and CP, and storing them in a biobank.
The new number is higher than the previous belief that less than 1 percent of CP cases were caused by genetics. Scientists also discovered the genetic structure of CP is similar to other neurological disorders such as autism and epilepsy.
"While we have long suspected that genes may play a role in the development of cerebral palsy, it wasn't until our research group mapped the DNA from cerebral palsy families that we could show genetic mutations are the likely cause," says Emeritus Professor Alastair MacLennan, the head of the Cerebral Palsy Research Group in Australia.
Researchers hope the new findings will help those in the medical field to diagnose CP early and reassess how babies are delivered. Scientists will also have more data to research better treatment and "preventative genetic techniques," says Jozef Gecz, a genetic scientist involved in the research.
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com. She loves collecting children's picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea
Photo of boy with cerebral palsy via Shutterstock