Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UCI, French researchers find master switch for adult epilepsy

28.06.2011
Study identifies new approach to preventing the chronic neurologic condition

UC Irvine and French researchers have identified a central switch responsible for the transformation of healthy brain cells into epileptic ones, opening the way to both treat and prevent temporal lobe epilepsy.

Epilepsy affects 1 to 2 percent of the world's population, and TLE is the most common form of the disorder in adults. Among adult neurologic conditions, only migraine headaches are more prevalent. TLE is resistant to treatment in 30 percent of cases.

UCI neurologist and neuroscientist Dr. Tallie Z. Baram and her colleagues found that TLE manifests after a major reorganization of the molecules governing the behavior of neurons, the cells that communicate within the brain. These alterations often stem from prolonged febrile seizures, brain infections or trauma.

“This discovery marks a dramatic change in our understanding of how TLE comes about. Previously, it was believed that neurons died after damaging events and that the remaining neurons reorganized with abnormal connections,” said Baram, the Danette Shepard Chair in Neurological Studies. “However, in both people and model animals, epilepsy can arise without the apparent death of brain cells. The neurons simply seem to behave in a very abnormal way.”

To learn why, Baram’s UCI team collaborated with a French group led by Christophe Bernard of the University of Marseille and Inserm. They focused on ion channels, molecules that straddle the boundaries of brain cells and govern how they fire and communicate among themselves.

Specifically, they explored an ion channel called HCN1 — which is suppressed in response to brain seizures, injuries and infections that lead to epilepsy — hoping to find the long-sought mechanism that triggers epileptic activity in previously normal brain cells.

In their study, which appears online in the Annals of Neurology, the researchers reveal that mechanism: The HCN1 channel gene and about three dozen other important genes are altered by a major cellular repressor called NRSF, which increases after events that give rise to epilepsy.

NRSF proteins work by attaching to the DNA of selected genes and shutting them down, causing neurons to fire abnormally and promoting the development of epilepsy. This was discovered when Baram and her colleagues prevented NRSF from linking to HCN1 and other NRSF-regulated genes, the development of epilepsy was markedly lessened.

This NRSF binding process is an example of epigenetics — enduring changes to gene expression without changes to the DNA sequence. Baram said the study is the first to show the significance of epigenetic mechanisms in the formation of epilepsy. The findings also point to NRSF having a larger role in influencing brain activity.

“NRSF operates like a master switch on many genes affecting neuron function,” said Shawn McClelland, UCI researcher and study co-author. “And if its levels increase, it can provoke changes lasting for years.”

“We’re quite excited about this discovery,” Baram said. “Understanding how previous brain infections, seizures or injuries can interact with the cellular machinery to cause epilepsy is a crucial step toward designing drugs to prevent the process. We don’t want to just treat people with epilepsy. We hope to develop medicines that will prevent epilepsy from occurring – and influence the lives of millions of people around the globe.”

The founder of UCI’s Epilepsy Research Center, Baram is considered the world’s leading investigator of the basic neural mechanisms involved in childhood febrile seizures — those caused by high fever — and how prolonged febrile seizures might lead to the onset of TLE.

Celine Dubé, Cristina Richichi and Qinqin Zha of UCI and Corey Flynn, Antoine Ghestem and Monique Esclapez of the University of Marseille and Inserm — the French national biomedical research agency — also contributed to the study, which received support from the National Institutes of Health and the French Institute of Health & Medical Research.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.2 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.

Tom Vasich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uci.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht 'Living bandages': NUST MISIS scientists develop biocompatible anti-burn nanofibers
16.02.2018 | National University of Science and Technology MISIS

nachricht New process allows tailor-made malaria research
16.02.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>