Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Animal research suggests new treatment target for epilepsy

01.07.2005


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:
http://www.wfubmc.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University

nachricht Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017
25.04.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>