This month’s epilepsy research news includes several studies that have advanced our understanding of what causes seizures. Three independent studies examined how certain changes in the brain might lead to seizures and epilepsy. The first looked at the impact of decreased levels of the protein connexin 36, the second investigated decreased levels of the enzyme inosine triphosphatase, and the third examined the changes in the pH of a certain type of support cell in the brain, pointing toward potential targets to treat or prevent certain types of epilepsy.
This month we also report research uncovering a potential genetic link between epilepsy and autism, as well as a report that preventing seizures after brain injury could slow or prevent the onset of dementia.
Summaries of these research discoveries can be found below.
- Understanding Seizures: In a recent study, researchers identified a new link between seizures and a deficiency in a protein known as connexin 36, a protein important in the coordination of activity between neighboring neurons in the brain. Using zebrafish to model seizures, researchers found that decreases in this protein increased the likelihood of neuronal hyperactivity, which is characteristic of epilepsy. Learn more
- Early Infantile Epileptic Encephalopathy: Researchers now report a better understanding of a mechanism causing Early Infantile Epileptic Encephalopathy 35, a type of epilepsy in infants associated with a deficiency in an enzyme known as inosine triphosphatase (ITPA). Using mice with decreased levels of ITPA in their central nervous system, researchers found increased excitability of neurons, a hallmark of epilepsy. Learn More
- Targeting Astrocytes to Treat Epilepsy: New research describes how astrocytes, a type of support cell in the brain, might be a potential new target to better treat epilepsy. The study shows that epileptic discharges lead to a rise in the pH of astrocytes, which appears to lead to an increase in epileptic activity of neurons. This finding points towards a potential new target for suppressing the development of epilepsy, namely by using drugs to suppress changes in the pH of astrocytes. Learn More
- Epilepsy and Autism: Researchers have identified and characterized genetic pathways shared by epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). By integrating a large number of expert-compiled and well-established epilepsy- and ASD-associated genes, the team identified a category of genes likely shared between the two disorders. The researchers conclude that exploring the findings could lead to better, more personalized treatments for both conditions. Learn More
- Post-traumatic seizures and dementia: Traumatic brain injuries are a major risk factor for certain types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Because seizures are common for patients who have suffered these injuries, neurologists often prescribe anti-epileptic drugs to prevent the seizures. The research reveals the potential to refine this approach to treatment with the new goal of preventing dementia. Learn more