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A new therapy developed by scientific researchers shows initial promise in treating cerebral palsy, a lifelong neurological disorder. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain abnormalities in the womb or early in life, and it can result from a variety of birth injuries.

The study, which was published in the scientific journal Science Translational Medicine, used nanoparticles known as dendrimers to break through the brain’s natural protective mechanisms. The study implemented the treatments in rabbit brains and no human testing has yet been approved.

This successful application of pharmacological treatment signals a potential breakthrough for people with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders that have been essentially untreatable. The primary problem with treating the conditions has been reaching the inflamed cells within the brain, according to the study’s authors. Traditional medicine has been unable to bypass the brain’s barriers but the dendrimers show promise in delivering medication to these heretofore inaccessible regions of the body.

The cells that are problematic for people with cerebral palsy also play a role in Alzheimer’s, stroke, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, according to the study’s authors. The researchers say they are optimistic about the new discovery and they believe a breakthrough for cerebral palsy treatment is very close.

No cure yet exists for cerebral palsy, a condition that affects as many as four out of every 1,000 babies born worldwide. The condition causes stiff muscles, uncontrollable movements and poor balance. Many with the condition require special equipment to walk, as well as other assistive devices. Humans are not typically diagnosed with cerebral palsy until they are 18 months or older, according to medical statistics.

Source: Bloomberg News, “Novel nanomedicine therapy treats cerebral palsy in study,” Ryan Flinn, April 18, 2012