A new study reported in Cerebral Palsy News Today discovered that the muscle composition and structure in children with CP are different than children without CP. This could be why children with CP have greater stiffness and contractures.
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When muscles are too tight for too long, the muscle forms contractures. These shorten the muscles and make it hard to stretch the muscle. These contractures are made of inelastic tissue. It’s been known for some time that the muscles of children with CP are stiffer than normal, but it was unknown why it happens.
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Muscle cells in children with and without CP are similar. However, these cells are bundled in something called the extracellular matrix (ECM) that acts as a scaffold for the muscle cells. The researchers found that changes to the ECM are the reason for the increased contractures in children with cerebral palsy.
Most of these changes were in the collagen of the ECM. The total amount of collagen in children with CP was “dramatically increased”, by 3-5 times. The linkages between collagen strands were also increased.
Additionally, a compound called biglycan was reduced in children with CP. This compound is linked with reduced stiffness in muscles. The researchers want to do more studies to find treatments that could reduce muscle stiffness without the need to undergo muscle lengthening surgery, which is the current treatment for contractures.