For years, scientists have focused on neuronal damage as the cause of neurological disorders, such as epilepsy. A growing body of evidence shows that impaired astrocyte function happens before seizures manifest.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a primary cause of epilepsy, which is characterized by scar formation that seals off injured areas from healthy brain tissue. These scars are formed by astrocytes. Scars inhibit normal function and have been associated with seizure genesis.
Researchers modeled TBI in mice, using a weight drop injury paradigm, in order to determine whether astrocyte scar formation is involved in TBI-induced epilepsy. While animals developed epilepsy, no scars formed, but astrocytes behaved atypically, with decreased protein expression and decoupling with brain vessels. There were also more atypical astrocytes in epileptic animals. These data support the hypothesis that altered astrocyte function contributes to the development of TBI-induced epilepsy.