Summary, originally published in News Medical
A significant number of epilepsy patients does not respond to currently available drugs. A collaboration between researchers in Japan and at the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) now addressed a cell type in the brain that has so far not received much attention in epilepsy therapy. In the current edition of the Journal of Neuroscience, they describe that astrocytes might be a potential new target to better treat this disease.
Together with colleagues in Japan, Prof. Dr. Christine Rose and her doctoral student Jan Meyer from the Institute of Neurobiology at HHU have performed a study to address the cellular mechanisms that promote the development of epilepsy. While up to now, most studies and anti-epileptic drugs targeted nerve cells (neurons), this research team focused on a class of glial cells known as astrocytes.
In their recent paper, the researchers show that epileptic discharges lead to a rise in the pH of astrocytes, that is in their intracellular ‘alkalization’. The change in pH disrupts the communication within the intercellular astrocyte networks. This reduced communication between astrocytes appears to exacerbate epileptic activity of neurons.
This finding points towards a potential new target for suppressing epileptogenesis at a very early stage, namely by using drugs to suppress changes in astrocytic pH accompanying neuronal activity.