Category Archives: Medical Research

Treadmill Exercise, Electroacupuncture May Benefit Cerebral Palsy Patients, Study Suggests

Patricia Anacia, PHD

Via Cerebral Palsy News Today

Treadmill training and electroacupuncture (EA) improved behavioral recovery in rats with cerebral palsy (CP), finds a Korean study, “Comparative analysis of the beneficial effects of treadmill training and electroacupuncture in a rat model of neonatal hypoxia-ischemia,” that appeared in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine.

In premature births, immature development of the lungs leads to hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen. This damages brain structure and function, often leading to later development of CP. Researchers aimed to find out whether treadmill training and EA would have autonomous or synergistic beneficial effects on deficits caused by neonatal hypoxia-ischemia in Sprague-Dawley rats.

The team subjected the rats to hypoxia; the rats then underwent treadmill training and EA stimulation from four to eight weeks of age. In EA, a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles as a means of stimulating the acupoints. Oriental medicine widely uses this method to treat many diseases, and it’s accepted as a complementary therapy for CP and post-stroke rehabilitation.

Treadmill training has been shown to improve gross motor function in patients with CP, and is often used in rehabilitation programs to improve motor and ambulatory skills.

To determine the potential benefits of treadmill training and EA, the team analyzed the rats’ behavior through several tests – sensorimotor recovery (cylinder test), locomotor activity (open-field test), gait analysis (CatWalk), motor coordination (rotarod and hanging wire grid test) and memory (passive avoidance test).

“In the behavioral examination, markedly improved performances in the rotarod test were observed in the rats that underwent treadmill exercise, and in the rats that underwent treadmill exercise and conventional electroacupuncture compared to the untreated rats subjected to hypoxia-ischemia,” researchers wrote.

The effects of treadmill training and EA led to an increase in myelin components and the proliferation and differentiation of neuronal progenitor cells.

Overall, the team wrote, “treadmill training and EA may contribute to each autonomous beneficial effect with some synergistic effects from functional deficits through the upregulation of myelin components and neurogenesis. Thus, treatment with EA stimulation, as well as treadmill training offers another treatment option for the functional recovery in CP, and can be applied to the treatment of patients with physical disability.”

Weighing the Ethics of Artificial Wombs

Elizabeth Yuko
Photo Credit: Kevin P. Casey for The New York Times

Via The New York Times

With 3-D printing, lab-grown organs and lifelike prosthetic limbs, science creeps ever nearer to replicating the parts and functions of the human body.

But not pregnancy: Despite several attempts over the past 20 years, researchers have been largely unsuccessful at encouraging human gestation outside the womb, and important elements of the interaction between mother and fetus remain a profound mystery.

Recently, however, scientists announced that they had created an artificial womb in which lambs born prematurely grew for a month. Human testing is not expected for three to five years, if it is done at all.

But should an artificial womb succeed for premature infants, it could have far-reaching legal and ethical consequences.

The term “artificial womb” evokes a scene from “Brave New World”: external artificial uteri capable of the entire gestation process, from implantation to delivery. But that’s not what the recent animal trial accomplished, nor was that its goal.

Today, incubators sustain the life of a premature infant without continuing the gestation process. Dr. Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and his team used incubator technology to encourage continued development and growth in the premature lambs.

Dr. Flake emphasized that the goal of their work was “physiologic support” — that is, to replicate conditions in the uterus as closely as possible, keeping more premature babies alive and able to develop in better health.

People often hear about miracle babies who, despite being born prematurely and at an extremely low birth weight, overcome the odds to survive. In fact, negative outcomes are very likely among infants born before 23 weeks, the point of viability.

The mortality rate is greater than 50 percent, and they have a 70 to 90 percent likelihood of experiencing major complications, like cerebral palsy, mental impairment and blindness. Because survival rates are higher, there are now more children with health problems like these than there were a decade ago.

Even if extremely premature babies survive their time in the incubator, they may have lifelong impairments or conditions that require support, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

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No Drop In Cerebral Palsy Prevalence, CDC Finds

By Shaun Heasley

New federal data suggests that the number of children born with cerebral palsy is largely steady though some kids are at higher risk than others for the developmental condition.

About 2.2 out of 1,000 children born in 2002 were diagnosed with congenital cerebral palsy – stemming from brain damage before or during birth – according to findings published online Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics.

That’s a slight increase over the 1.9 per 1,000 identified for children born in 1985, researchers said.

Read the full story.

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