(10/11/12) - Bunny rabbits and an implanted pump may hold the key to new treatments that could vastly improve the quality of life for a lot of people living with movement disorders, like Cerebral Palsy.
For Carol Wilkins, just watching her daughter get out of the house is amazing. "At some point during my delivery, she was without oxygen and it damaged the brain cells on her left side."
Chelsea has Cerebral Palsy. Carol tried everything to make her daughter's pain go away, but nothing worked.
She hopes this pump is the solution they've been waiting for. "It controls some of her stiffness and dis-coordination so that she is now able to use that brain to make her body do what she wants it to do."
Dr. Maurice Sholas says the implantable device allows the muscle relaxer Baclofen, usually taken in pill form, to be delivered directly into the spinal cord.
He says, with the pump, the medicine bypasses the stomach and circulatory system, helping patients avoid side effects that can occur when Baclofen is taken orally.
Along with CP patients, the device was even more recently FDA approved for use in people with spasticity, a movement disorder caused by things like stroke, brain injury and multiple sclerosis.
"So you take somebody from having to take three or four different pills three times a day to not having to take any of that and the pump just handles it on its own," Dr. Sholas says.
In other research, rabbits are helping advance CP treatments at the National Institutes of Health. Five days after the anti-inflammatory drug NAC was injected directly into the brains of newborn bunnies, born with CP, the animals were able to walk and even hop.
Meanwhile, Carol says, the pump has done wonders to relieve her daughter's pain, "it's been a plus for her, it really has."
The downside of the Baclofen pump is, it has to be implanted, so it requires patients to have surgery. The pump can last for almost a decade.
In addition to cerebral palsy, researchers are also exploring the benefits of NAC for people with autism and Alzheimer's disease.
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