2016

Taking Flight Award

Pediatric Epilepsies: Micrornas Determine Network Excitability During Development

Laura Ewell, PhD
University of California, San Diego
 

Pediatric epilepsies arise when the assembling of the brain goes wrong, the mechanisms for suppressing activity are not in place, and neurons become hyperexcitable. To cure these diseases we need to identify and better understand the master regulators that instruct brain assembly and potentially fail in epilepsies. MicroRNAs (miRs) are great candidates. They coordinate complex developmental processes and are altered in patients with epilepsy. Dr. Ewell’s team is studying the role of a miR that is abundant in inhibitory interneurons. They hypothesize that it supports the development of inhibitory neurons in networks, enabling interneurons to function properly. Functional inhibition is crucial for protecting networks against hyperexcitability, so they hope that understanding miR regulation of inhibition during development will lead to powerful drug targets to cure pediatric epilepsies.

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