Epilepsy research reveals unknown trigger for seizures

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Manoj Patel, PhD, University of Virginia School of Medicine. Photo: med.virginia.edu

Researchers, including Indian-American scientist Manoj Patel, at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have uncovered how problems in cortical microcircuits in the brain can trigger epileptic seizures.

The researchers say that targeting the problem could lead to new treatments for a devastating form of the disease, an Oct. 20, 2021, press release from UVA said.

The researchers have published their findings in the Journal of Neuroscience. The research team consisted of Wengert, Raquel M. Miralles, Kyle C.A. Wedgwood, Pravin K. Wagley, Samantha M. Strohm, Payal S. Panchal, Abrar Majidi Idrissi, Ian C. Wenker, Jeremy A. Thompson, Ronald P. Gaykema and Patel.

The research by Eric R. Wengert, PhD, and Manoj K. Patel, PhD, and their team found that a particular type of brain cell called somatostatin interneurons can cause seizures when they go haywire. These interneurons are actually thought to function as a built-in brake system to safeguard against excessive activity in the brain and prevent seizures, but Patel, Wengert and colleagues found that, when dysfunctional, somatostatin interneurons actually drive excessive brain activity and seizures.

“Identifying the particular nerve cells that contribute to seizures is important because it helps direct the ways researchers go about developing novel therapies,” Patel is quoted saying in the press release. He is in UVA’s Department of Anesthesiology. “Based on this research, we now have a new cellular target to try to restore balance to the brain and prevent seizures.”

They believe their findings make it possible to treat SCN8A epileptic encephalopathy by developing ways to fix the agitated interneurons. The results, they say, also help us better understand epilepsy more broadly.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

 

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