A drug commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis may, after necessary modifications, one day be used to treat patients with epilepsy, researchers in Prof. Inna Slutsky’s lab at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University have discovered.
This is good news for patients with Dravet syndrome, one of the most dangerous forms of childhood epilepsy, for which there is currently no effective treatment.
According to a new study published on April 29 in Neuron, Tel Aviv University researchers uncovered a piece of a puzzle that has eluded scientists for 100 years of studying homeostasis: What is the mechanism that maintains activity set points in neural circuits?
While it is well-understood that the brain functions in a narrow range of activity between status epilepticus and coma, how neural circuits maintain stable activity in a constantly changing environment has remained unknown.
“The concept of homeostasis has a long history in physiology, starting from the work of Claude Bernard in the middle of 19th century on the stability of the milieu interior. In the middle of 20th century, James Hardy proposed a model in which homeostatic mechanisms maintain physiological variables with an acceptable range around a ‘set point’ value. However, the research of neuronal homeostasis began only 25 years ago, and we still don’t understand how it works,” explains Prof. Slutsky. “What we have found is a homeostatic mechanism that acts as a sort of a thermostat of the neural circuits, which ensures the return to a set point after each event that increases or decreases brain activity.
“Our findings may serve as a basis for the development of drugs for a range of neurological and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which, like epilepsy, are characterized by instability of brain activity.”