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Study May Lead to New Treatment for Brain Disorder

Nature Medicine

A University of Iowa study could help scientists better understand a serious brain condition.  Between one and three of every thousand children born in the U-S are affected by the condition hydrocephalus, in which fluid collects around the brain.

Doctor Val Sheffield with University of Iowa Pediatrics said the new study suggests a signaling problem in immature cells disrupts brain development. He says this may eventually lead to medications to treat the disorder instead of current remedies that require multiple surgeries.

Immature brain cells, called progenitor cells, need to grow and then die at a specific rate in order for the structures of the brain to develop normally. In the study, the team was able to lessen the severity of hydrocephalus in mice by treating them with lithium.

Current treatment involves surgery to drain the fluid from the brain by installing shunt.  These shunts may need to be adjusted several times with surgeries as a child suffering from hydrocephalus grows.

Dr. Sheffield said even though current treatments are effective they have risks.


“A patient’s family just told me recently, it may be a fairly routine or common surgery for the neurosurgeons but it’s a big deal to the patients,” he said.

He said that another lesson from the research is that each patient may need a treatment tailored to his or her brain to be effective.

The finding were published in the online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.