Study could pave the way for new cerebral palsy treatments

The findings of a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation this week could pave the way for future treatments for cerebral palsy, researchers have said.

As part of the study, which was entitled ‘A TLR/AKT/FoxO3 immune tolerance–like pathway disrupts the repair capacity of oligodendrocyte progenitors,’ researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in the US set out to discover why brain repair is often impaired in people living with cerebral palsy or other conditions such as dementia and multiple sclerosis – and how this can be rectified.

Specifically, the team set out examine hyaluronic acid – a naturally-occurring type of sugar which has tendency to accumulate in damaged areas of the brain.

Once this sugar accumulates within specific areas of the brain’s white matter, it typically ‘blocks off’ bodily repair processes. However, the material is first ‘broken down’ by brain lesions, therefore researchers wanted to find out which aspect of hyaluronic acid blocks the maturation of brain cells generally required in order for repairs to be successful

The team at OHSU managed to demonstrate that only one specific-sized fragment of the acid, known as bHAF, was responsible.

Upon finding this, the researchers were able to determine that blocking bHAF’s production of a protein called FoxO3 could help to effectively ‘boost’ brain repair in people affected by certain conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Stephen Back, MD, PhD, senior author of the study, said: “We’ve identified a molecule that plays the role of the ‘bad actor.’

“In essence, it hijacked the molecular machinery of the immune system and repurposed it to shut down brain repair after injury.”

He added: “While this new molecule may not be easily detected in the brain, FoxO3 may serve as a viable biomarker for identifying its detrimental effects in the white matter, creating an opportunity for further research and targeted therapies to fully reverse the impacts of brain injury for people of all ages.”

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