What Research Is Being Done to Find a Cure or Additional Treatments for Spina Bifida?

Within the Federal Government, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), supports and conducts research on brain and nervous system disorders, including spina bifida. In one study supported by NINDS, scientists are looking at the hereditary basis of neural tube defects. The goal of this research is to find the genetic factors that make some children more susceptible to neural tube defects than others. Lessons learned from this research will fill in gaps of knowledge about the causes of neural tube defects and may lead to ways to prevent these disorders. These researchers are also studying the role genes play in the process of neural tube closure, which will provide information on the human nervous system during development, which may result in improved clinical care, treatment, and genetic counseling.

Other scientists are studying genetic risk factors for spina bifida, especially those that diminish or lessen the function of folic acid in the mother during pregnancy, possibly leading to spina bifida in the fetus. This study will shed light on how folic acid prevents spina bifida and may lead to improved forms of folate supplements.

NINDS also supports and conducts a wide range of basic research studies to understand how the brain and nervous system develop. These studies help scientists to better understand neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, and offer hope for new avenues of treatment for and prevention of these disorders as well as other birth defects.

Another component of the NIH, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), is conducting a large five-year study to determine if fetal surgery to correct spina bifida in the womb is safer and more effective than the traditional surgery – which takes place a few days after birth. Researchers hope this study, called the Management of Myelomeningocele Study, or MOMS, will help them to know which procedure, pre-birth or post-birth, is best for the baby.

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