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The Small Picture: Fighting Cerebral Palsy with Nanotechnology

A research team at Wayne State University is convinced that the big solution to preventing and treating cerebral palsy may come in a small package. The husband-and-wife team consisting of chemical engineering professor, Rangaramanujam Kannan and assistant pediatrics professor Dr. Sujatha Kannan, has received a patent for using tiny polymers to attack what it considers to be the root of the disorder: inflammation in the brain.

Cerebral palsy is a condition made up of a group of motor disorders caused by brain damage that often occurs after suffering from a birth injury or an infection that develops while in the womb. Prevention of the condition has thus far proven to be very difficult because it is generally diagnosed only after the damage has already occurred.

The research team has developed tiny tree-shaped polymers called dendrimers, which range from 5-10 nanometers long (over 700 times smaller than a human red blood cell), that are used to carry medicine directly to inflamed areas in the brain. The team believes that this method, in conjunction with the identification and diagnosis of the neuroinflammation in newborns, could prevent, or at least reduce, the development of cerebral palsy. Dr. Kannan is currently able to detect such inflammation in the brains of newborn rabbits and she believes that doctors might eventually be able to do the same in human newborns. Once detected, the dendrimers could then be used to target the inflammation, which in turn could prevent the condition from developing.

For more information on using this nanotechnology to treat cerebral palsy, click here.