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Lancaster Scientists Contribute to Hydrocephalus Research

Story supplied by LU Press Office

A team of British scientists at Manchester and Lancaster Universities has turned established thinking on its head in a bid to understand the serious and often deadly condition, hydrocephalus, commonly known as 'water on the brain'.

A simple dietary supplement taken during pregnancy could prevent the brain defect resulting from hydrocephalus, revolutionary research suggests.

"Fetal-onset hydrocephalus results in a blockage in brain development which everyone has always thought was brain damage due to fluid accumulation," said Dr Jaleel Miyan, the University of Manchester scientist leading the research.

"There is currently no unequivocal prenatal diagnosis test or satisfactory treatment other than surgical diversion of the fluid through a tube, known as a shunt, from the brain to the abdomen or heart. Shunts are permanent and prone to infection and blockage so that patients may require several operations during their lifetime.

"This procedure is based on the established clinical view that this fluid is nothing more than a mechanical support system within the skull with little, if any, physiological properties and that hydrocephalus is simply a build up of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.

"But our studies have shown that the condition may in fact cause a change in the composition of the fluid and that it is this chemical change that prevents normal cell division resulting in arrested brain development.

"We have also been excited by the results of tests that have shown it may be possible to 'unlock' the potential brain in fetuses with hydrocephalus using a simple dietary supplement during pregnancy."

Working with Dr Miyan will be Dr Jane Owen-Lynch, from Lancaster the University, Professor Carys Bannister, retired neurosurgeon and visiting Professor in Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences and Miss Sarah Cains an MRC funded postgraduate student working on this project in Manchester.

Mon 28 November 2005

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