Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's son, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, died on Tuesday at the age of 26 , after suffering from a rare congenital disorder. While Cerebral means brain, Palsy refers to the weakness in muscle and immobility of the same. It’s a group of disorders that affects the movement of muscles in the body and postures. Many children, across the world, are born with this condition that hampers their brain development, impairing their hearing and stunting their muscle development, causing visual disturbances, movement disorders among other complications.
According to a recent population-based study from around the world by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Cerebral Palsy ranges from one to nearly four per 1,000 live births or per 1,000 children. The report further adds that about 1 in 345 children (3 per 1,000 8-year-old children) in the United States have been identified with CP, according to 2010 estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. The same data suggests that Cerebral Palsy is said to be higher for children born preterm or at low birthweight, whereas, in some parts of the world, there is evidence that the prevalence of Palsy has declined, particularly for children born at moderately or very low birth weight.
Scientists and researchers worldwide have been actively seeking a better understanding of the disease and cure for the same. In recent times, much focus has been placed on understanding the condition, determining the cause, identifying the risk factors and therefore, implementing preventive measures. In order to advance the treatment for Cerebral Palsy, scientists focus on eye-tracking technology, stem cell treatments, repairing damaged brain cells, pain management, bio-medical advancements, assistive technology and surveillance.
Although there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy, supportive treatments, medications, and surgery can help many individuals improve their motor skills and ability to communicate with the world.
With studies being carried out, worldwide, to find the root cause of the disease, the general focus on the research can be categorised into a few sections:
White Matter Damage research
The damage of the white matter in the brain, specifically surrounding the ventricles, is said to be one of the most common causes of Cerebral Palsy. This is the part of the brain most commonly affected in cerebral palsy.
According to reports, researchers are working to develop effective strategies to prevent white matter damage by using mouse models and cell-based therapies. They hope that this would be able to prevent the perinatal white matter damage that causes cerebral palsy.
Genetic Defects research
Scientists are attempting to identify how genetic factors are also responsible for a child developing Cerebral Palsy by collecting DNA samples from those who currently have the condition, along with samples from their family members. To determine the same, sophisticated screening techniques are used to evaluate the sample. The goal is for scientists to establish links that would explain how Cerebral Palsy develops in children with genetic abnormalities.
Children with Cerebral Palsy and those who suffer from severe spastic movements are often treated with Botulinum toxin, more commonly known as Botox. Scientists believe that the benefits of Botox, particularly its effectiveness in helping with daily vibration treatments and improving the bone structure of the lower leg, could prove to be an effective treatment for Palsy.
The data from India
In India, cerebral palsy is found per 1000 children was 2.95. The report further states that sub-group analysis for rural, urban and mixed rural-urban study populations demonstrated the pooled prevalence as 1.83, 2.29 and 4.37 respectively. Nearly 15 per cent to 20 per cent of physically disabled children are affected by Cerebral Palsy.
According to experts, early determination and diagnosis of the disease can significantly help in overcoming the disease with the necessary therapies and treatment.