It may be possible to reverse the effects of spinal muscle atrophy (SMA) - also known as floppy baby syndrome - scientists have claimed.
SMA, a form of motor neurone disease, affects one in 6,000 babies, although half die before the age of two. Yet scientists at the University of Edinburgh believe a drug could increase protein levels, and consequently reverse muscle wastage - one of the key symptoms of the disease.
The worst affected children often have problems breathing, eating and swallowing, while some may have difficulty walking and require a wheelchair.
The scientists found that as well as affecting the nervous system SMA also damages muscles due to a lack of a protein called SMN.
Professor Tom Gillingwater, who led the research team, said: "SMA is the most common genetic cause of infant death in the western world.
"By showing the important role that muscles play in this disease, we can now focus our efforts on trying to block the disease in all affected tissues of the body."
Posted by Robert Mair on 27/02/2012