Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Animal research suggests new treatment target for epilepsy


New research suggests novel treatment targets for the most common form of childhood epilepsy – with the potential to have fewer side effects than traditional therapy. The findings from Wake Forest University School of Medicine are reported today in the July issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology.

Through studies in animals, the researchers learned more about the possible brain pathways involved in absence, or petit mal, seizures and tested a drug that revealed a potential new target for blocking seizures before they spread.

"Many current therapies act on the entire nervous system and can have such side effects as sleep disruptions, dizziness and increased risk of developmental side effects," said Georgia Alexander, who with Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D., co-authored the new study. "Because this treatment blocks the pathway that may cause the spread of seizures, it could be more effective and have fewer side effects."

Absence seizures, which are most common in children between 6 and 12, get their name because during the seizure the child seems to be temporarily unconscious of his or her surroundings. Although they last only a few seconds, the seizures can occur hundreds of times a day and can dramatically impact learning and development.

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes the seizures, but a prevalent theory is that an abnormal electrical discharge originates in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that controls thinking and feeling, and travels to the thalamus, a part of the brain that controls consciousness and certain brain rhythms. The abnormal rhythmic discharges that result may then spread to other parts of the brain. Other types of seizures may also spread this way, including Lennox-Gastaut seizures, a severe form of childhood epilepsy that is often resistant to treatment.

"We know that the cortex communicates with the thalamus continuously, and current theories suggest that when the ’conversation’ gets too loud, seizures can occur," said Alexander. "We wanted to see if there was a way to calm the dialog."

In studying this possible pathway of seizures, Alexander made an important finding about its organization. It was already known that cells in the thalamus communicate with cells in the cortex by releasing the neurotransmitter glutamate. The glutamate travels across the gap -- creating a pathway for cell-to-cell communication.

Alexander and Godwin were the first to show that in addition to releasing glutamate, thalamus cells also have a special type of glutamate receptor that acts almost as a braking system – slowing the release of glutamate when there is high-intensity brain activity associated with a seizure.

"It’s like the gas and brake pedals of your car, "said Godwin, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy and the senior researcher on the project. "Glutamate is important for normal communication in the brain, but sometimes it’s necessary to put on the brakes in order to preserve normal function. This receptor appears to slow down the rate at which glutamate is released across the synaptic gap, and may protect the cells from becoming overexcited."

Alexander hypothesizes that in epilepsy patients, the protective receptors may not function well or that glutamate production may be abnormal. A treatment that targets these protective glutamate receptors has the potential to block the pathway involved in seizures, with the added benefit of allowing normal communication to continue.

"If this research leads to drugs that can target these newly discovered receptors, it would be an important advance in therapy," said William L. Bell, M.D., a specialist in epilepsy at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Godwin explained that design of improved drugs to target the receptors wouldn’t be a cure, but would short-circuit the type of abnormal activity that results in seizures.

In this research, the scientists studied the pathway by simulating seizure-related activity within brain circuits. They will continue the research by studying animals that are genetically predisposed to epilepsy.

Shannon Koontz | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular doorstop could be key to new tuberculosis drugs
20.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

nachricht Modified biomaterials self-assemble on temperature cues
20.03.2018 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Earlier flowering of modern winter wheat cultivars

20.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Smithsonian researchers name new ocean zone: The rariphotic

20.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Molecular doorstop could be key to new tuberculosis drugs

20.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>