Cerebral palsy is a difficult condition for many reasons, not least of which because there is no cure. This neurological condition is caused by brain damage that is irreversible. This does not mean, however, that there is no hope for children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. In fact, a number of existing therapies can make a big difference, and there are now numerous emerging treatments that are changing how both children and adults live with cerebral palsy.
Treating Spasticity with a New Medical Device
Spasticity is a common symptom of cerebral palsy. It is characterized by stiff muscles that are difficult to control. Clinical trials are underway to test a new device on patients struggling with spasticity, including those with cerebral palsy. The device is hoped to be a non-invasive way to control these spastic muscles. The device works by stimulating specific nerve circuits in the spine, which in turn suppresses those that are causing muscles to be spastic. The researchers hope that the device will replace other therapies for spasticity that are invasive and risky and that cause side effects.
Deep Brain Stimulation for Cerebral Palsy
Another important and emerging treatment for cerebral palsy is called deep brain stimulation, and it may help with dystonia, the involuntary twisting and repetitive movements that often characterize the condition. The treatment involves the surgical insertion of electrodes in the brain. The electrodes send electrical impulses to certain areas of the brain related to dystonia and related movements. Stimulation of a part of the brain called the globus pallidus internus has been proven to help people with cerebral palsy, but the surgery can be risky, especially for children.
Botox Injections to Treat Hypertonia
Botox is the toxin produced by botulinum bacteria. When consumed, this toxin is very dangerous and can be deadly. As an injection it can be used in a targeted way to treat a variety of conditions, including some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy. The injection has the effect of temporarily paralyzing specific muscles. The toxin paralyzes and relaxes hypertonic muscles. Hypertonic muscles are common in cerebral palsy and are over-toned and stiff, difficult to move, and sometimes painful.
Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cell therapy is an emerging treatment for a variety of conditions, including cerebral palsy. Stem cells are cells in the body that have the ability to grow and change into other types of cells. The easiest stem cells to access and use for treatment are found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. These cells are also useful because they can develop into nearly every type of cell in the body.
There is great promise from research that these stem cells can help treat brain conditions by helping to regenerate damaged tissue. There are ongoing clinical trials using cord blood infusions to treat children with cerebral palsy. So far the results are very promising, showing that this emerging treatment is safe and that it may be effective in improving symptoms of cerebral palsy. Some researchers hope it may eventually prove to be a cure for the condition.
Cerebral palsy is currently a condition with no cure, but research is progressing and emerging treatments are proving that there is hope. Many children and adults live with this condition by using regular therapies, but if better treatment options were available, they could live more independently and more comfortably. Researchers aim to make that a reality.