Monday, August 4, 2014

Best Post of February 2014: Seizing Control of Brain Seizures

The next in our Best of the Month series comes from February 27, 2014:

How can trauma lead to chronic seizures? Berkeley researcher Daniela Kaufer found that only when albumin in the blood breaches the blood-brain barrier does the likelihood of post-traumatic epilepsy go up. Accelerated signaling between neurons results from this exposure, leaduing to seizures. “We were surprised, even a little disappointed, that it was such a common component of the blood  – nothing exotic at all  – that led to epilepsy,” recalls Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology. She and colleagues went on to

Daniela Kaufer in the lab
show that albumin interacts with a ubiquitous cell protein TGF-Beta receptor to cause the damage. In the healthy brain, TGF-Beta signaling affects activity of astrocytes, which normally limit neuron-to-neuron firing signals across the synapse. But when albumin stimulates TGF-Beta receptors, astrocytes lose some of their control. Neuron signaling then spike dangerously, and promote the development of epileptic seizures. As luck would have it, statin drugs block TGF-Beta signaling.  Kaufer is now carrying out research to confirm that blocking abnormal TGF-Beta activity can prevent epilepsy from a range of insults. “Right now, if someone comes to the emergency room with traumatic brain injury, they have a 10 to 50 percent chance of developing epilepsy. But you don’t know which ones, nor do you have a way of preventing it. And epilepsy from brain injuries is the type most unresponsive to drugs." says Kaufer. “I’m very hopeful and that our research can spare these patients the added trauma of epilepsy.”

(Thanks to Dr. Doug "Scout" Shevlin for alerting me to this potentially groundbreaking research.)

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