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New invention could improve treatment for children with 'water on the brain'
Date:9/24/2010

Grand Rapids, Mich. (September 23, 2010) Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) scientists participated in a study with researchers from the University of Utah that could help find ways to improve shunt systems used to treat the neurological disorder hydrocephalus, or "water on the brain," the leading cause of brain surgery for children in the United States. Researchers studied the shunt systems under a variety of conditions by creating a bioreactor that mimics the environment inside patients.

Hydrocephalus is an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain and is one of the most common birth defects, affecting approximately one in 500 children every year. Another 6,000 children annually develop hydrocephalus during the first two years of life. The pressure created by too much CSF can affect mental ability, balance, personality, and vision, result in headaches and seizures, and even lead to death.

"This paper is a very valuable contribution to the field of hydrocephalus research," said Pat McAllister, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Basic Hydrocephalus Research and Adjunct Professor of Physiology and Bioengineering at University of Utah School of Medicine. "Tragically, practically all patients with hydrocephalus are at risk for shunt malfunctions, which invariably produce more brain injury, and most of these patients must undergo multiple surgeries to remove obstructed catheters. These studies represent significant advancements in our attempts to prevent cells from blocking shunt catheters, and we look forward to continuing our work with Dr. Resau and his colleagues."

Hydrocephalus is typically treated by implanting shunt systems in the brain that can divert the flow of CSF to other areas of the body where it can be absorbed into the circulatory system. However, complications due to blockage occur in up to 61% of patients, and an estimated 50% of shunts need to be replaced within two years. University of
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Contact: Joe Gavan
616-234-5390
Van Andel Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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