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Researchers at University of Arizona's Phoenix campus working to find out the underlying causes of cerebral palsy

Posted at 8:01 PM, Mar 26, 2019

PHOENIX, AZ — Researchers at U of A's Phoenix campus are working to find out the underlying causes of cerebral palsy.

One out of 250 children have the disorder. Common risk factors include a premature birth or a lack of oxygen to the developing brain.

But Dr. Michael Kruer says one third of parents whose children have CP, had no risk factors.

"It can be very confusing and I think even for a physician, we've often been taught a child's CP must be related to one of those environmental risk factors," Dr. Kruer said.

Laura Avery's daughter, Kate, is one of those children. "Her MRI's don't show any damage," Avery said. "She did not have birth trauma. She was not a preemie."

Avery says Kate was born a healthy baby, but slowly began showing signs of cerebral palsy. Kate is now taking part in Dr. Kruer's study, which is the first in the country to receive a federal grant, to look into whether genetics play a role in developing the disorder.

"The research coming out of our lab indicates 30% of kids may have a genetic explanation for their CP," Dr. Kruer said.

Dr. Kruer says the research can also help explain why complications occur after birth.

For example, Kiersten Harper's 3-year-old son Max developed cerebral palsy after having a major stroke shortly after being born. Harper says she had no complications during her pregnancy.

"To be thrown into that all of a sudden, not expecting anything, it was hard," Harper said.

The research can also lead to better treatment for cerebral palsy. For the Avery family, they're hopeful it will bring a better understanding to the disorder.

"There may be some more knowledge about her condition," Avery said. "Some potential treatments for her condition down the line and maybe even one day a cure."