It has long been the belief that cerebral palsy occurs when a child experiences a lack of oxygen during pregnancy or at birth; however, the Australian Collaborative Cerebral Palsy Research Group, based at the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute, has found at least 14% of cerebral palsy cases are likely caused by a genetic mutation.
"While we have long suspected that genes may play a role in the development of cerebral palsy, it wasn't until our research group mapped the DNA from cerebral palsy families that we could show genetic mutations are the likely cause of the condition in at least 14% of cases," he says.
Professor Jozef Gecz, University of Adelaide genetic scientist, says because cerebral palsy is at least partly genetic in origin there will be significant changes in the approach to diagnosis, management and treatment of the condition.
With the help of collaborators around Australia and in Houston, Texas, and with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Cerebral Palsy and Tenix Foundations, the University of Adelaide-based research group has gathered a unique DNA and clinical data cerebral palsy biobank, which is attracting international attention and further research collaboration.
This work has been the result of 20 years of research by the group. The team is continuing to seek further mutations in cerebral palsy cases, which will add to the percentage of cases with a genetic basis.