Doctors at Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne, Australia announced a new medical trial that will use melatonin in an effort to prevent prenatal fetal brain injuries, including cerebral palsy. The trial will involve 20 women and will go on for 12 months. Even though results are not expected until 2013, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one in every 303 children in the U.S. suffers from cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy describes a group of brain and nervous system disabilities that affects movement, hearing, sight, thinking, and learning. Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain that can occur during pregnancy, birth, and early childhood. However, in a large majority of cerebral palsy cases, the damage occurs during pregnancy.
Whatever the cause, cerebral palsy greatly inhibits a child's development and quality of life. The severity of symptoms can range from moderate to severe. Many children with cerebral palsy require life-long, around-the-clock care.
The Monash study builds on previous research by its scientists and doctors who have found a link between intrauterine fetal growth restriction (IUGR) and injuries to the developing brain of the fetus. According to the specialists at Monash Medical Centre, one in 20 pregnant women exhibit IUGR, a situation where the placenta does not provide sufficient nutrients and oxygen to the developing fetus' brain. IUGR is responsible for a large number of cerebral palsy cases, but currently there is little doctors have been able to do in the way of treatment. The Australian study represents new hope in this field.
The doctors and specialists at Monash Medical Centre have spent the last five years studying and observing the causes of brain injuries and IUGR. Their research has established that the brain injury is caused by oxidative stress, where an excess of free radicals causes tissue damage. Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals associated with cell damage.
According to the doctors and scientists at Monash, doses of melatonin could prevent oxidative stress by protecting fetal brain cells. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, and besides regulating important functions in the body, such as the wake-sleep cycle, it is also a powerful antioxidant. With its ability to easily cross cell membranes and from blood to brain cells, scientists at Monash hope that melatonin will prevent oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
The Monash study will include 20 pregnant women who will be administered melatonin orally in tablet form if they exhibit IUGR. Research at Monash has already shown that free radical levels in cord blood of IUGR births are higher than in normal births. The trial will also test the cord blood of babies who were given melatonin for free radical levels to see whether the treatment was successful. If successful, a second trial will include 100 women and two- and three-year follow-up exams of babies to test for development of cerebral palsy.
The trial, if successful, could represent major progress in prenatal treatment and hopefully prevent cerebral palsy in some children. There will still be those instances of cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence. The study does not address those cases. If your child has been the victim of medical negligence, then it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible due to the unique deadlines associated with medical malpractice claims.