With 2013 behind us, we reflect back on the year gone by and the medical, social and technological accomplishments it brought us. As parents of children with special needs, few of us have time to review the scores of media outlets in search of the latest therapies or medical and technology breakthroughs that made the news. We’ve made it a bit simpler by collecting a sample of newsworthy and sometimes life-changing medical discoveries and advancements of the past year, as well as notable stories of advocacy and awareness. This is Part 1 of a three part series.
Research Accomplishments (Therapies, Interventions, Prevention)
In 2013, the field of neurology continued to open new doors with groundbreaking and life-changing discoveries and interventions. These innovative medical breakthroughs are offering hope and an improved quality of life for many challenged with neurological disorders. Stem cell research and the first ever U.S. approved clinical trial of stem cell use for children with cerebral palsy make it to the top of our list of medical advances for 2013.
We’ve followed the steady progression of stem cell research and the promising future stem cell therapy may offer to individuals with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders. We read stories of a new way to grow neural stem cells to help brain injuries and disease and of the findings of stem cells helping patients after brain injury. The past year brought us the story of a Detroit boy the community is referring to as ‘A Living Miracle After Stem Cell Treatment for Cerebral Palsy’ and we closed the year with news of a first-of-its-kind clinical trial studying two forms of stem cell treatments for children with cerebral palsy (CP) that has recently begun at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School.
Another story of pioneering research introduced us to the field of neuromodulation. This new therapy consists of an array of implantable devices to allow patients who suffer chronic pain and disability to enjoy active lifestyles that once seemed unimaginable.
The field of neurotechnology is introducing devices for the treatment and management of epilepsy. The most notable news of the past year may be the FDA approval of an implanted brain stimulator. This new therapy detects abnormal electrical activity in the brain and delivers stimulation intended to normalize brain activity before the patient experiences symptoms of seizure. Keck Medicine of USC became the world’s first medical center to implant a responsive brain device, which has the potential to help millions of people worldwide. In other news, there are new at-home testing devices to monitor epilepsy, drug levels, and reduce clinical visits.
We followed multiple stories through the year of the many research programs aimed at improving the quality of life of individuals affected by cerebral palsy and other conditions. The NIH award of $2.4M to develop innovative robots to aid people with visual and physical impairment tops our list. We’re currently following news of three projects that have been awarded funding by the National Institutes of Health. One such research program is a Canadian study using children between the ages of 6-18 and robots to better understand sensory dysfunction in the developing brains of children with CP.
In the field of alternative therapy, a study using acupuncture made the news last year. In the article we reviewed, Acupuncture Eases Cerebral Palsy – New CT/MRI Research, researchers investigated a special approach to acupuncture treatment. CT (CAT scan) and MRI neuroimaging confirmed that acupuncture enhanced improvements in anatomical structures in the brain. The study concluded that these improvements were higher in the acupuncture group than in the control group receiving only the rehabilitative care, a promising outcome for patients with cerebral palsy.
Read more great cerebral palsy stories from 2013 in Part 2.
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