A newly-identified fat molecule found in breast milk could help reverse the effects of cerebral palsy, according to a new study.
Researchers in the U.S. found a fatty acid present in breast milk which can trigger the production of new white matter.
White matter loss leads to neurological deficits such as cerebral palsy and there is currently no treatment to help infants who have suffered such losses.
However, a new study from researchers at the Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina has shown positive signs that it could be used to treat infants with white matter loss.
Researchers at Duke Health identified the fatty molecule during recent experiments using neonatal mice.
The molecule triggers a process in which stem cells in the brain produce cells that create new white matter.
White matter loss, caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, leads to neurological defects and issues with memory, balance and mobility.
Cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition which affects movement and coordination, affects the development of a baby’s brain whilst it’s growing in the womb and is sometimes caused by damage to white matter.
The newly-identified lipid molecule found in breast milk enters the brain and binds with stem cells, encouraging them to either become or produce a type of cell called oligodendrocytes.
Though he acknowledged the necessity of the impending clinical trials, Dr. Eric Benner an author of the study and a distinguished assistant professor at Duke University’s Department of Pediatrics, admitted the results were promising.
Dr. Benner explained: “Developing therapies for children – especially such medically fragile children – is
Dr. Benner is a neonatologist at Duke University and one of the co-founders of Tellus Therapeutics, a spinout company developed with the help of Duke University to bring this therapy from the bench into the neonatal intensive care unit.
The fatty molecule identified in the study will be injected into patients in upcoming clinical trials, which is significant due to many vulnerable infants also suffering from gastrointestinal issues, meaning they cannot safely be given milk or medication by mouth.
Dr. Agnes Chao, a former fellow in the Division of Neonatology and first author of the study, expressed her excitement at the findings of the study, published in the journal Cell Stem.
“The timing of brain injury is extremely difficult to predict, thus a treatment that could be safely given to all preterm babies at risk would be revolutionary,” Dr. Chao said.
“As a neonatologist, I’m so excited that I may be able to offer a treatment to families with babies that are affected by preterm brain injury who would otherwise have no other options.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”
Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.