Although BK channels have been linked to a rare, familial form of epilepsy, their involvement in other types of seizure disorders has never been demonstrated. These findings, published in the June issue of Neurobiology of Disease, indicate that BK channels are a new target for anticonvulsant therapies, and offer new hope to individuals suffering from epilepsy.
The researchers discovered that BK channels become abnormally active after a seizure. This disruption results in the neurons becoming overly excitable, which may be associated with the development of epilepsy. The Carnegie Mellon scientists were able to reverse this abnormal excitability using a BK channel antagonist, which returned the post-seizure electrical activity to normal levels.
"The fact that the BK channel previously has been linked with familial epilepsy and with generalized seizures in subjects without a genetic predisposition points to a common therapeutic pathway. We've shown that BK antagonists can be very effective in normalizing aberrant electrical activity in neurons, which suggests that BK channel antagonists might be a new weapon in the arsenal against epilepsy," said Alison Barth, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon's Mellon College of Science.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder marked by abnormal electrical activity in the brain that leads to recurring seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, no cause can be found in about seven out of 10 people with epilepsy. Researchers, however, have identified a genetic component in some types of epilepsy. This study establishes, for the first time, a shared component between different types of epilepsy.
"Although research has revealed that many types of inherited epilepsy are linked to mutations in different ion channels, there has been little overlap between these ion channels and those channels that are affected by sporadic or acquired forms of epilepsy," Barth said. "BK channels could represent a common pathway activated in familial and sporadic cases of epilepsy."
The BK channel allows electrically charged potassium ions into and out of cells. This activity starts and stops the electrical impulses by which neurons communicate with one another. Barth and her colleagues were specifically interested in investigating BK channels' function following a first seizure. Their in vitro studies revealed that, after a seizure, BK channel function was enhanced - neurons fired quicker, stronger and more spontaneously. This abnormal activity might underlie the transition between a single seizure and the emergence of epilepsy, characterized by recurrent seizures.
"We found that seizures caused cells to become more excitable, and that BK channel antagonists bring everything back to normal. These channels are at a nexus of control and represent a new target for anticonvulsant therapies," Barth said.
It is also possible that BK channel antagonists could be used early, perhaps after an initial seizure, to prevent cellular changes that lead to epilepsy, according to Barth.
Co-authors of the study include Sonal Shruti and Roger L. Clem, graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition at Carnegie Mellon. The study was funded by the Sloan Foundation, the Milken Family Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and Carnegie Mellon University.
Jocelyn Duffy | EurekAlert!
Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks
08.12.2016 | Penn State
NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology
07.12.2016 | Nanyang Technological University
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences