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Epilepsy Research

These Neurons are Alive and Firing. And You Can Watch Them In 3-D

For patients with epilepsy, or cancerous brain lesions, sometimes the only way to forward is down. Down past the scalp and into the skull, down through healthy grey matter to get at a tumor or the overactive network causing seizures. At the end of the surgery, all that extra white and grey matter gets tossed in the trash or an incinerator. Well, not all of it. At least, not in Seattle.     For the last few years, doctors at a number of hospitals in the Emerald City have been saving those little bits and blobs of brain, sticking them on ice, and rushing them off in a white van across town to the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Scientists there have been keeping the tissue on life support long enough to tease out how individual neurons look, act, and communicate. And today they’...

What is the Link Between DNA, Epilepsy and Intellectual Disability?

Researchers used chromosomal microarray analysis to investigate abnormal chromosomal copies and deletions in adults with epilepsy and intellectual disability.   Epilepsy is a chronic disorder marked by unpredictable, recurring seizures caused by an overload of electrical activity in the brain. What a patient with epilepsy experiences during a seizure depends on what part of their brain the epileptic activity activates, and how widely and quickly it spreads from that area. While doctors can’t always determine what causes epilepsy, it has been linked to factors such as genetics, head trauma, strokes, or some infectious diseases such as viral encephalitis.

A dietary supplement dampens the brain hyperexcitability seen in seizures or epilepsy

Seizure disorders — including epilepsy — are associated with pathological hyperexcitability in brain neurons. Unfortunately, there are limited available treatments that can prevent this hyperexcitability. However, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have found that inducing a biochemical alteration in brain proteins via the dietary supplement glucosamine was able to rapidly dampen that pathological hyperexcitability in rat and mouse models. These results, seen in animal models, represent a potentially novel therapeutic target for the treatment of seizure disorders.

Lack of CLOCK protein appears key in severe epilepsy forms

A new study in Neuron focuses on the role that a lack of the protein “CLOCK” plays in several forms of epilepsy. The study provides evidence that excessive excitation of specific brain cells may be due to a lack of CLOCK in the region of the brain that produces the seizures. This effect, researchers found, is stronger during sleep.The finding potentially gives researchers a new way to develop a treatment for some cases of the most severe cases of the disabling disorder, said corresponding author Dr. Judy Liu, a new Assistant Professor of Neurology at Brown University. Because the study directly implicates a specific protein pathway in a specific part of a patient’s brain, Liu said a strategy for further research could be to deliver a drug that compensates for the lack of ...

Neuroscientists develop new forms of diagnosis and therapy for temporal lobe epilepsy

What if you fell off your bicycle today and ten years later you developed epilepsy? Relationships like this might appear far-fetched but are entirely possible, say Freiburg researchers. Using the latest MRI scanning procedures, Prof. Dr. Carola Haas, Department of Neurosurgery, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Hennig, Department of Radiology, and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Egert, Department of Microsystems Engineering (MST) of the University of Freiburg, in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Jan Korvink of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, have shown how certain disorders of the hippocampus can initiate a drug resistant epilepsy. The team has discovered biomarkers that – if used for screening – could massively improve treatment options for epilepsy. The researchers have published their results in the onlin...

Pairnomix, StemoniX Develop Epilepsy Model in Search for New Anti-seizure Drugs

Pairnomix has joined efforts with StemoniX to develop a lab-based model of epileptic seizures using so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The model, which researchers refer to as a “seizure-in-a-dish” model system, will allow scientists to study seizures at a network level. In this way, they can use the model to screen for anti-epileptic drugs in a fast and easy manner. Minneapolis-based Pairnomix has expertise in epilepsy models, while San Diego-based StemoniX has developed the microBrain Platform. The model mirrors tissue architecture in the brain, with nerve cells connecting to each other through synapses, forming functional networks. For brain diseases such as epilepsy, iPSCs are invaluable research tools. These cells can be derived from skin tissue, and are forced to backt...

Epilepsy biomarkers pave way for noninvasive diagnosis, better treatments

Researchers have identified a unique metabolic signature associated with epileptic brain tissue that causes seizures. The chemical biomarker can be detected noninvasively using technology based on magnetic resonance imaging. It will allow physicians to precisely identify small regions of abnormal brain tissue in early-stage epilepsy patients that can’t be detected today using current technology. The biomarker could also be used to localize epileptic brain regions for therapeutic removal without the need for additional surgery.

Molecule may help maintain brain’s synaptic balance

Many neurological diseases are malfunctions of synapses, or the points of contact between neurons that allow senses and other information to pass from finger to brain. In the brain, there is a careful balance between the excitatory synapses that allow messages to pass, and the inhibitory synapses that dampen the signal. When that balance is off, the brain becomes unable to process information normally, leading to conditions like epilepsy.

Distinct wiring mode found in chandelier cells

Researchers at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience identify the wiring process of a unique type of inhibitory cells implicated in several diseases. A basic tenet of neural development is that young neurons make far more connections than they will actually use, with very little specificity. They selectively maintain only the ones that they end up needing. Once many of these connections are made, the brain employs a use-it or lose-it strategy; if the organism’s subsequent experiences stimulate the synapse, it will strengthen and survive. If not, the synapse will weaken and eventually disappear.

Man’s best friend: Evolutionary history of dogs could shed light on cancer, epilepsy in both species

An evolutionary tree of more than 161 dog breeds has been mapped out by geneticists, showing which types are closely related to each other. The research will be of obvious interest to dog owners but it is hoped it will shed light on the causes of diseases that affect both dogs and humans, including epilepsy.

‘Minibrains’ In A Dish Shed A Little Light On Autism And Epilepsy

Tiny, 3-D clusters of human brain cells grown in a petri dish are providing hints about the origins of disorders like autism and epilepsy. An experiment using these cell clusters — which are only about the size of the head of a pin — found that a genetic mutation associated with both autism and epilepsy kept developing cells from migrating normally from one cluster of brain cells to another, researchers report in the journal Nature.

Chinese, US scientists’ research may help cure cancer, epilepsy, aging

When Yuan Yingjin turned 54 on March 10, he had two unusual presents: some yeast chromosomes and acclaim in China’s national news. That day, research into assembling four synthetic yeast chromosomes, completed by his Tianjin University research team and scientists at Tsinghua University and BGI-Shenzhen, was published in the famous journal Science. The achievement made China the second country after the US capable of designing and building eukaryotic genomes.

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