Article published by SciTechDaily
Over the years, everyone loses a few brain cells. A study led by scientists from USC Stem Cell and the USC Neurorestoration Center presents evidence that adults can replenish at least some of what they’ve lost by generating new brain cells, and that this process is dramatically altered in patients with long-term epilepsy. The findings are published in Nature Neuroscience.
“Our study is the first to detail the presence of newborn neurons and an immature version of a related cell type, known as astroglia, in patients with epilepsy,” said Michael Bonaguidi, an assistant professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, gerontology, and biomedical engineering at USC. “Our findings furnish surprising new insights into how immature astroglia might contribute to epilepsy—opening an unexplored avenue toward the development of new anti-seizure medications for millions of people.”
First author Aswathy Ammothumkandy, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the Bonaguidi Lab, and her colleagues collaborated with USC neurosurgeons Charles Liu and Jonathan Russin, who often treat patients with seizures that can’t be controlled with medication. Drug resistance is particularly common with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, or MTLE, and affects one-third of all patients with this form of the disease. As a result, some patients need to undergo surgery to remove the section of the brain, the hippocampus, that causes their seizures.
The team also studied electrical activity related to seizures. They found suspicious correlations between where electrical activity was localized within the surgical samples, and the location and behavior of the astroglia.
“Normally, astroglia are considered to be supporting cells, because their job is to create an environment where neurons can thrive,” said Ammothumkandy. “But in patients who have lived for many years with epilepsy, it might be immature astroglia that are contributing to both initiating and modulating chronic seizures.”
If this is the case, then immature astroglia could be an effective cell type to target by developing an entirely new class of anti-seizure medications.