Science has found a strong genetic component to cerebral palsy

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Scientists have found strong underlying genetic causes for cerebral palsy, the most common cause of physical disability in children.

The condition had been thought to be caused by some form of trauma, the result of birth asphyxia, stroke or infections in the developing brain of babies.

The Canadian study, by a team from the Hospital for Sick Children and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, could have major implications on the future of counselling, prevention and treatment of children with cerebral palsy.

“Our research suggests that there is a much stronger genetic component to cerebral palsy than previously suspected,” says Dr Maryam Oskoui, a paediatric neurologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

“How these genetic factors interplay with other established risk factors remains to be fully understood. For example, two newborns exposed to the same environmental stressors will often have very different outcomes. Our research suggests that our genes impart resilience, or conversely a susceptibility to injury.”

Children with cerebral palsy have physical difficulties and often have epilepsy and learning, speech, hearing and visual impairments.

Two out of every 1000 births are affected by cerebral palsy.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, demonstrates there are many different genes involved in cerebral palsy.

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