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Researchers discover novel mode of neurotransmitter-based communication

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine have discovered the first example of a novel mode of neurotransmitter-based communication. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, challenges current dogma about mechanisms of signaling in the brain, and uncovers new pathways for developing therapies for disorders like epilepsy, anxiety and chronic pain.

This funky helmet makes brain-scanning more comfortable

It can make scanning kids and patients with movement problems much easier.   See that helmet in the photo up there? That’s not a prop for a new sci-fi/horror flick — it’s a magnetoencephalography (MEG) helmet that can scan the brain and map its activity. MEG machines are used to look for pathological activity in patients with epilepsy and for brain tumor patients’ surgical planning. The machines are typically, humongous, heavy and can’t do their job if subjects don’t stay perfectly still, which means it’s hard to scan kids with epilepsy or people with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders. This helmet designed by scientists from the University of Nottingham and University College London will work even if the patient is moving.

UC granted $1.75 million to develop potential cures for acquired epilepsy

University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center Research scientist Jianxiong Jiang, PhD, doesn’t just want to treat acquired epilepsy…he hopes to prevent it. “Epilepsy is a common neurological condition that afflicts nearly three million Americans and 50 to 60 million people globally. The disease is featured by epileptic seizures due to unusual hypersynchronization and hyperexcitability of a group of brain neurons,” says Jiang, an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati (UC) James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy.

Epilepsy study links mossy brain cells to seizures and memory loss

NIH-funded study in mice suggests loss of mossy cells plays a critical role in both. New findings in a study of mice suggest that a loss of mossy cells may contribute to seizures and memory problems in a form of epilepsy.Ivan Soltesz, Ph.D., Stanford University.   A small group of cells in the brain can have a big effect on seizures and memory in a mouse model of epilepsy. According to a new study in Science, loss of mossy cells may contribute to convulsive seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) as well as memory problems often experienced by people with the disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Research reveals how brains develop the right mix of cells

Scientists have discovered a mechanism that controls the mix of cells in the developing brain, which could help us to understand and treat conditions such as epilepsy.   Broadly speaking, our brains contain two types of nerve cells or ‘neurons’: excitatory neurons, which increase activity in other neurons, and inhibitory interneurons, which dampen activity between neurons. The balance between the two forces of excitation and inhibition is thought to be critical for maintaining stable activity in healthy brains, and the disruption of this balance has been implicated in epilepsy, schizophrenia, intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders.

Stopping Epilepsy Before It Starts?

“Being able to identify that a person is likely to develop epilepsy following a brain injury is one of the most important focus areas in modern-day epilepsy research,” says Dr. Laura Lubbers, CURE’s Chief Scientific Officer. “With 3.4 million Americans suffering from epilepsy and seizures in the U.S., this discovery of a predictive biomarker for a certain form of epilepsy could prevent unpredictable seizures from taking over the lives of millions of Americans and their families.”   New research, funded by Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), has discovered a ‘smoking gun’ biomarker that could result in treatments that stop some epilepsies before they even start.   Using a rat model of brain injury and epilepsy, CURE-funded researcher Dr. Annamaria Vezzani and her team...

Engineer Locates Brain’s Seizure Onset Zone In Record Time

University of Houston biomedical engineer is reporting a dramatic decrease in the time it takes to detect the seizure onset zone (SOZ), the actual part of the brain that causes seizures, in patients with epilepsy.   Nearly 30 percent of epilepsy patients are resistant to drug therapy, so they have the option of surgery to remove their seizure onset zones. Most of them opt in, according to assistant professor Nuri Ince, noting the improved quality of life for sufferers.

Individual patient data allow researchers to study brain function using detailed simulations

Using patient measurement data, researchers from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health have refined a brain modeling platform called the Virtual Brain. The software has been used in projects and publications across the globe. The latest findings have been published in eLife.   PHOTO CREDIT: The Virtual Brain is an open-source tool for the simulation of brain networks. Credit: Jessica Palmer/The Virtual Brain

Graduate Student Uses Artificial Intelligence AI to Advance Epilepsy Research

Artificial intelligence may be the next great medical tool for those with epilepsy, according to a research project done by Ph.D candidate Yogatheesan Varatharajah.   His research with AI resulted in a technique that can identify the brain regions that generate seizures, without requiring the inspection of actual seizures.   “While there is a lot of skepticism about whether artificial intelligence has a negative impact on humanity, we firmly believe that AI can be used to make mankind stronger and our work is a perfect example of that,” Varatharajah said.

This Collaboration Will Develop a New Epilepsy Gene Therapy for In-Need Patients

CombiGene and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult have struck a deal that will move the biotech’s epilepsy therpy towards the clinic.   Swedish biotech CombiGene has combined neuroscience and advances in gene delivery to pioneer and new therapy for epilepsy that has brought down the number of seizures in preclinical studies. The company has joined forces with the UK’s Cell and Gene Therapy (CGT) Catapult to develop the manufacturing processes for CombiGene’s gene therapy, CG01. Once complete, the biotech will be able to move towards clinical trials.

Mitochondrial metabolite linked to regulation of neurotransmission

A team of researchers has discovered a novel level of regulation of the communication between neurons and other cells. The metabolite alpha-ketoglutarate, a product of the metabolism of mitochondria, the energy generators of the cell, plays an unexpected role in the regulation of neurotransmission linking mitochondrial dysfunction and neuronal disorders. The study appears in the journal Cell Reports.   “Our experiments reveal an unexpected and important role for alpha-ketoglutarate in facilitating close interaction between synaptotagmin 1 and membrane lipids, which promotes rapid and efficient synaptic vesicle fusion, essential for optimal neurotransmission,” explained Berrak.   “Recently, an infant with severe encephalopathy and intractable epilepsy was found t...

Nanotubes go with the flow to penetrate brain tissue

Rice University researchers have invented a device that uses fast-moving fluids to insert flexible, conductive carbon nanotube fibers into the brain, where they can help record the actions of neurons.   The Rice team’s microfluidics-based technique promises to improve therapies that rely on electrodes to sense neuronal signals and trigger actions in patients with epilepsy and other conditions.

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