NeuroDevNet cerebral palsy research spans prevention, rescue and regeneration
One project is investigating how eating broccoli sprouts can prevent cerebral palsy (CP). Another incorporates fire-spitting geckos into a rehabilitation exergame system. A third has amassed a National CP Registry with more than 1,500 patients.
As we celebrate World Cerebral Palsy Day 2105 around the globe, we’d like you to meet members of NeuroDevNet’s Cerebral Palsy research team of top Canadian investigators and researcher-clinicians who use their diverse expertise to improve the lives of children and families affected by the most common childhood motor disability.
“This is a research group that covers pre-clinical animal work all the way to knowledge translation,” says Dr. Darcy Fehlings, lead principal investigator of the CP research program. “It’s really exciting to have a national team like this, and it’s really important to have this broad depth and breadth of focus for a better understanding of cerebral palsy.”
Under the umbrella of CP, the severity and type of disability can vary considerably. People with CP face a wide range of health challenges that may require numerous surgeries and extensive rehabilitation.
Our CP researchers Drs. Michael Shevell and Maryam Oskoui (right) and their collaboration with Dr. Stephen Scherer, co-lead of NeuroDevNet’s autism research group and a pioneer in autism genetics, made front page news in early August 2015. Duplications, deletions and/or reorganization of segments of DNA in families with children with CP suggested for the first time that our genes impart resilience - or the reverse - a susceptibility to brain injuries that cause the symptoms of CP.
- placental insufficiency, a complication of pregnancy when the placenta is unable to deliver enough nutrients and oxygen to the fetus to support typical development;
- fetal inflammatory response, a condition where systemic inflammation is seen in fetuses with preterm labor, and also fetal viral infections such as cytomegalovirus, and
- neonatal stroke – a stroke that occurs before or soon after birth that is thought to cause 70 to 80 per cent of identified cases of CP.
Liberi Exercycle improves fitness and increases social interaction
The brainchild of Dr. Darcy Fehlings (below, on the right) and researchers from the GRAND NCE, the Liberi exercycle, and one of the games it powers is the source of the fire-spitting geckos in the lead into this story. The customized exercycle whose pedals, powered by youth with CP, run customized multi-player videogames played both remotely and in person via headsets has shown cardiovascular benefits, as well as what one study participant described as life-changing impacts on his social life. The dual impact is very encouraging to both researchers and teens in the study. Physical activity in this age group often dwindles, and social isolation increases.
Epigenetics of CP in Preterm-Born Infants
Top: Dr. Michael Shevell and Dr. Maryam Oskoui collaborated with Dr. Stephen Scherer in a groundbreaking study of the role of genetics in cerebral palsy supported by NeuroDevNet. / Photo courtesy of McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Public Affairs
Prakasham Rumajogee: Fehlings Lab, University of Toronto
Exergame image: Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Public Affairs