How can we discover the cause of cerebral palsy?

Friday, 1 August 2008

Researchers are using National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week (3-9 August) to encourage more Australian families to take part in a national study that hopes to better understand the possible genetic causes of cerebral palsy.

The major study needs 10,000 Australians to participate, with a focus on mothers who have children with cerebral palsy aged between 5-18 years.

One of the world's most serious complications during pregnancy and birth, cerebral palsy is a condition that affects one in every 500 children born in Australia, and the consequences are life long.

"National Cerebral Palsy Week is a perfect opportunity to urge Australian mothers and their children to take part in our study, which involves a simple, self-administered DNA cheek swab," says the research leader, Professor Alastair MacLennan, Head of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Adelaide and head of the South Australian Cerebral Palsy Research Group.

"Comparing the genetics of both mother and child will help to determine the genetic factors behind the causes of cerebral palsy, which means we'll be a step closer to discovering specific preventions and therapies.

"During National Cerebral Palsy Week, it's really important for Australians to realise how common cerebral palsy is in our community, and the national research efforts that are aimed at preventing it," Professor MacLennan says.

It was once commonly thought that cerebral palsy is caused by low oxygen levels during birth. However, studies conducted by the South Australian Cerebral Palsy Research Group show that the condition is often associated with genetic mutations that may increase blood clotting within the unborn child's brain. The group's work has found a link between cerebral palsy and different types of herpes virus infection, such as cold sores and chicken pox.

"More research is needed, and I urge as many Australians as possible to sign up for this study so that we can help the thousands of Australian families affected by cerebral palsy births every year," Professor MacLennan says.

How to participate

Mothers and Australian-born children aged 5-18 who enrol in this study will be able to collect their own genetic (DNA) cheek skin samples using cheek swabs. Cheek swabs will be posted to the participants, along with instructions and a short questionnaire.

To find out more about the study or to enrol, either:

SMS your name and address to: 0439 201 795, or
Phone (freecall): 1800 800 254, or
Fax: (08) 8161 9111, or
Email:, or visit


Contact Details

Emeritus Professor Alastair MacLennan
Head, Cerebral Palsy Research Group, Robinson Research Institute
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 1337
Mobile: +61 (0)400 383 144

Dr Michael O'Callaghan
Affiliate Lecturer
Robinson Institute
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8275 1169
Mobile: 0405 419 207

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762