The new group, called the International Cerebral Palsy Genomics Consortium, has members from universities in the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, China, and Turkey.
The Australian team, led by professors Alastair MacLennan and Jozef Gecz from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, recently received a $1 million grant from The Tenix Foundation and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation to continue their research into cerebral palsy’s possible genetic causes.
“For decades, it has been the belief that cerebral palsy occurs when a child experiences a lack of oxygen during pregnancy or at birth. However, the evidence shows that at least one in four cerebral palsy cases is associated with genetic mutations,” MacLennan said in a news release.
“Our research is laying to rest the myth that cerebral palsy often is due to asphyxia or trauma at birth and is preventable by earlier delivery,” MacLennan added.
The research group has created a large DNA biobank from cerebral palsy families to assist medical research on the disease. Using cutting-edge DNA sequencing technology, the group has detected new genetic variants that potentially cause cerebral palsy.
“Such a register of genetic mutations is a must for our work,” Gecz said.
“Cerebral palsy is associated with a diverse and large group of either inherited or spontaneous genetic mutations, that may sometimes interact with environmental triggers during pregnancy. This aberrant genetic diversity is also seen in autism and intellectual disability. By pooling international data sets of genetically and clinically characterised cerebral palsy cases, this will enable our group to identify common neurodevelopmental pathways and probable environmental triggers,” Gecz added.
The international group will foster collaboration rather than competition around genetic research into the causes of cerebral palsy, and will set up the first international genomics database of genetic mutations in cerebral palsy. This database will be housed at the University of Adelaide.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support of The Tenix Foundation and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation in what we believe is a critical area of research. Cerebral palsy impacts on the lives of many families the world over, and we want to do everything we can to help prevent, manage and treat this condition,” MacLennan said.