If there’s anything that tugs on a mom’s heartstrings, it’s seeing her baby in bad shape. Babies with hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”), for instance, look especially vulnerable with their enlarged heads. Hydrocephalus is a neurological disorder brought about by the buildup of the cerebrospinal fluid in the head, the causes of which is still relatively unknown. Some 1,500 newborns are diagnosed with hydrocephalus each year.
Currently, the only available treatment for hydrocephalus is to drain the fluid by placing a shunt in the brain, but this can lead to risks like infection and may only address the symptoms instead of the actual cause.
However, a recent study published in the Science Translational Medicine has made a discovery that can lead medical experts to finally unlock the mystery behind the condition. On a study on mice, researchers found out that hydrocephalus may be an effect of a fat molecule, called lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), which binds to cells.
LPA binds to a protein, the LPA receptor, found on some cells on the brain’s surface. When the brain has too much LPA, it triggers a hemorrhage, which hinders the development of certain cells responsible for the regulation of the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid.
The pressure on the brain caused by the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid results in brain damage. In some cases, the pressure also causes bleeding in the brain, which the researchers looked into for the study.