Children afflicted with cerebral palsy may be able to regain some control over their bodies through infusions of a drug into their spinal column, researchers reported.

A preliminary study involving 17 children with the most common form of cerebral palsy and six patients with other forms of so-called spasticity found most appeared to benefit from an injection of the drug baclofen into their spines."We found that the spasticity in the legs was dramatically alleviated in both groups of patients," said Dr. A. Leland Albright, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh who led the research.

Based on the findings, Albright and his colleagues implanted small pumps into the abdomens of 20 patients to continuously infuse baclofen into the spinal columns of patients through a tiny tube.

Although Albright would not discuss the details of that study, "so far the results are very encouraging," he said Tuesday.

An estimated 750,000 Americans suffer from cerebral palsy, and about 15,000 babies are born with the disease each year. The disease is believed caused by brain damage to the developing baby from a variety of causes, such as illness or poor nutrition by the mother.

Baclofen is similar to a naturally occurring chemical involved in carrying signals between nerve cells known as GABA, which cerebral palsy patients may lack. Injecting baclofen into the spine may replace the missing chemical, helping restore normal motor function, Albright said.