Brain Cell Study Sheds Light on Epilepsy

PHILADELPHIA, April 29 (UPI) — U.S. neuroscientists have identified a process that helps control the firing of neurons — a finding they said sheds light on epileptic seizures.

The researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston said by isolating the molecular and electrical events that occur when the control is disrupted, the new research not only advances medicine’s understand of epileptic seizures, but also potentially other diseases involving poorly regulated brain activity.

“By better understanding the detailed events that occur in epilepsy, we are gaining knowledge that could ultimately lead to better treatments for epilepsy, and possibly for other neurological diseases,” said Children’s Hospital neuroscientist Douglas Coulter, the study’s corresponding author. “Temporal lobe epilepsy, in particular, often resists current treatments,” he said.

Coulter’s research group, collaborating with a Tufts University team led by co-senior author Professor Philip Haydon, explained that in epilepsy excessive signaling between neurons can lead to seizures. However, another class of brain cells called glia can regulate such signals. Among the glia are star-shaped cells called astrocytes — the particular focus of this research.

“This study shows that changes in astrocytes are key to brain dysfunction and opens the potential for novel therapeutic strategies in epilepsy,” Haydon said.

The study is detailed in the early online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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