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Recent research indicates there may be a link between a child's chances of developing cerebral palsy and their genetics.

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About 70% of cerebral palsy cases result from a birth injury. Was your child one of them?

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Cerebral palsy and genetics explained

The Centre for Applied Genomics at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children recently conducted a study on the connection between a child’s genetic makeup and the development of cerebral palsy.

The Toronto’s Hospital’s results show that at least one in 10 cases of cerebral palsy likely has an underlying genetic cause.

Cerebral palsy has long been considered to be the result of a brain injury that occurs before, during, or within five years of birth that prevents the brain from developing properly.

Common causes of cerebral palsy include bacterial and viral infections, bleeding in the brain and a lack of oxygen to the fetal brain, among others.

Symptoms vary based on the type of CP a child has, but general signs include:

  • Lack of control of motor functions
  • Involuntary reflexes
  • Stiff muscles and decreased muscle tone
  • Seizures and epilepsy
  • Learning disorders

New research may provide groundbreaking insight into the ways that a child’s genetic makeup may affect their chances of developing CP.

Research on cerebral palsy and genetics

While it has been accepted in the past that the primary cause of CP is brain damage during birth, scientists at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children suggest that it could be more directly linked to a child’s genetic makeup.

According to a study from the Genomic Medicine Institute of the Geisinger Health System, there are 6 known genes that conclusively cause cerebral palsy in children.

The Toronto Hospital research team conducted genome sequencing tests on 115 children diagnosed with cerebral palsy and their parents. Genetic testing found that in 10 percent of all cases, structural changes in the DNA appear to have given rise to the condition. Among this 10 percent, all were found to have DNA alterations. These changes in DNA can lead to conditions such as cerebral palsy.

But it’s important to note that within the 10 percent of cases that exhibited structural changes in DNA, only 5 percent showed a conclusive correlation between a child’s genetics and their subsequent CP. The other 5 percent of children exhibited less notable changes in DNA, but genes inherited from their parents are presumed to have some sort of correlation to their child’s development of CP.

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The benefits of genetics research for cerebral palsy

One of the most advantageous aspects of conducting research regarding the correlation between genetics and cerebral palsy is that it offers an explanation for parents who may be wondering why and how their child developed CP.

In the case that there was no obvious prenatal event or trauma at birth, parents are left without answers as to why their child developed CP. This can leave parents with questions such as: Did we do something wrong? Could we have prevented this somehow?

By having a further understanding of the ways in which spontaneous cases of CP can develop in relation to a child’s DNA, this can help to relieve any worries parents may have about what could have caused their child’s condition.

As is shown by recent research, in some cases, the answer may simply be that it was just a random genetic mutation that occurred.

What if my child’s CP wasn’t genetic?

While there is evidence regarding the link between CP and genetics, this is still a body of information that is developing day by day. However, there is much more information available regarding the influence that a poorly trained medical staff can have on subsequent birth injuries and lifelong conditions, such as cerebral palsy.

For example, the use of birth assisting tools such as forceps and vacuum extractors have been shown to cause injury at birth if used improperly.

Symptoms that your child’s cerebral palsy may have been due to an assistive device include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Skull fractures
  • Weakness or paralysis of one side
  • Infant’s head is misshapen

In addition to birth injuries, negligence on the part of the physician or hospital are also potential causes of CP.

Evidence of physician or hospital negligence include:

  • Not performing a necessary cesarean section
  • Improperly monitoring the baby’s oxygen levels throughout delivery
  • Failure to treat severe jaundice in the newborn

If you suspect that your child’s condition is a result of the improper use of assistive devices or negligence of the medical staff or hospital, you may be entitled to financial compensation. With the cost of caring for a child with CP surpassing $1 million over their lifetime, it’s critical to examine all of your options to help cover the cost of treatment.

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Cerebral Palsy Guide was founded upon the goal of educating families about cerebral palsy, raising awareness, and providing support for children, parents, and caregivers affected by the condition. Our easy-to-use website offers simple, straightforward information that provides families with medical and legal solutions. We are devoted to helping parents and children access the tools they need to live a life full of happiness

  1. CBC News. (2015). Cerebral palsy linked to genetic anomalies. Retrieved on April 27, 2016, from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/cerebral-palsy-linked-to-genetic-anomalies-1.3177689
  2. Medscape. (2012). Cerebral Palsy Linked to Genetic Abnormalities. Retrieved on April 27, 2016, from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/759007#vp_2