Published by: Georgia-May Gilbertson, Stuff

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Medical experts will use cutting-edge technology to look inside the leg muscles of children in a study to help understand more about cerebral palsy.

The condition affects more than 10,000 people in New Zealand with the study expected to take place at Mātai, the medical imaging research centre based in Gisborne.

The centre is working with researchers in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) and will use highly advanced MRI technology to look inside the leg muscles.

The study will begin in either January or February once volunteers are sourced.

The teams hoped to involve 50 children and teenagers – with and without cerebral palsy – to undergo MRI scanning of their leg muscles three times, during a period of two years.

ABI team leader Dr Geoffrey Handsfield said the study would help medical teams design new treatments, along with helping people with the condition to walk better and avoid dependence on a wheelchair.

“While advancements in surgery have helped with the clinical management of children with CP, many of these interventions are temporary, with symptoms potentially returning over time.”

Handsfield said to provide treatment and intervention, experts needed to understand musculoskeletal conditions of the disorder, along with impairments to the skeletal muscle architecture.

“Understanding differences in the shape progression and growth trajectory of leg muscles between participants with and without CP will show us how ageing and growth contributes to walking impairment.”

Handsfield said experts had some ideas for how growth was impaired by cerebral palsy, but had never looked at it directly.

It would take about 30 minutes for volunteers to be scanned by the MRI machine.

“Few of us get a chance to see the inside of our own leg, all their bones and muscles, and the connective tissues that join them.”

Cerebral palsy is a condition resulting from a non-progressive brain lesion which occurs during, before, or soon after childbirth.

Similar to a stroke, but occurring at a very young age, it affects the brain in ways that impair movement of the body and limbs.

Handsfield said cerebral palsy was not a neurodegenerative disorder (illnesses that involve the death of certain parts of the brain), but the result of a single-event brain injury that that affected both the posture and the movement of children who had it. But while the neural injury did not change, the musculoskeletal conditions usually worsened over-time.