Star-shaped brain cells that are often overlooked by doctors and scientists as mere support cells appear to play a key role in the development of epilepsy, researchers say in a study published on-line August 14 in Nature Medicine. Its one of the first times scientists have produced firm evidence implicating the cells, known as astrocytes, in a common human disease.
Scientists found that astrocytes can serve as ground zero in the brain, setting off a harmful cascade of electrical activity in the brain by sending out a brain chemical that triggers other brain cells to fire out of control.
While its impossible to tell at this early stage what effect the finding will have on treatment, the investigators at the University of Rochester Medical Center are hopeful the results will give doctors and pharmaceutical firms a new target in efforts to treat and prevent the disease.
Tom Rickey | EurekAlert!
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