Epileptic seizures often originate in small, localized areas of the brain where neurons abnormally fire in unison. These electrical impulses disrupt proper brain functioning and cause seizures. But what makes regions where seizures start different from parts of the brain where electrical impulses remain normal? More importantly, what prevents these epileptic centers from growing?
The answer to these questions may lie in a new discovery by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago. In non-CURE funded work, CURE Grantee Dr. Jeffrey Loeb and his colleagues found that a protein — called DUSP4 — was increased in healthy brain tissue directly adjacent to epileptic tissue. Their research suggests that boosting levels of DUSP4 could be a novel way of preventing or treating epilepsy.
Their findings are reported in the journal Neurobiology of Disease.
“If epileptic brain regions spread throughout the brain with nothing to stop them, the seizures would overwhelm the brain, it would not be survivable,” said Loeb, UIC professor and head of neurology and rehabilitation at the College of Medicine and corresponding author on the study. “We wondered if there were natural ways that epileptic brain areas are quarantined. We searched for genes at the border between epileptic and normal brain tissue that may help prevent the spread of epilepsy.”