In early April 2012, a research and clinical group in Melbourne, Australia reported that it might have identified a method for preventing brain damage
in babies before they are born. The prenatal brain damage discussed includes cerebral palsy, a condition that is typically caused by damage to an unborn baby's brain when he or she is still in the womb
Dr. Euan Wallace of the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne noted in the group's announcement that their finding that prenatal melatonin administration may prevent brain damage is doubly exciting because "Pregnancy is a black box — we are watching, but until now there has been nothing we can do to intervene."
Many growth-restricted fetuses are identified by prenatal testing, and it's known that the growth restriction may be accompanied by brain damage, but until now little or nothing could be done to counteract the damage before a baby's birth. About 1 in 300 children born in the U.S. each year has cerebral palsy.
The researchers at Monash had been studying prenatal brain injury for five years, and they established that the brain damage is caused by free radicals due to oxidative stress. They compared the level of free radicals in the umbilical cord blood of normal-growth and growth-restricted babies, and they found that the free radical level was significantly higher in the growth-restricted babies.
The anti-oxidant melatonin fights the free radicals, and the Monash group found that brain injuries could be prevented in fetal lambs when the mother sheep were given melatonin, which counteracts the oxidative stress that produces free radicals.
The melatonin treatment is set to be tested, with approval, in a trial of approximately 100 women in the Melbourne area. It's too early to be available for use in the U.S., but it's likely that researchers all over the world will take up the challenge of establishing whether melatonin treatment during pregnancy can prevent cerebral palsy and other instances of prenatal brain injury.
For more information about cerebral palsy, contact a cerebral palsy lawyer
today. Our lawyers help families affected by cerebral palsy and may be able to help you.