Epilepsy can be caused by or occur due to a range of factors in a person’s life. In some cases, it might occur in childhood due to genetics. Other times, a head injury might cause epilepsy to develop. With head injuries, the condition might not develop right away. It could even take years to develop according to Freiburg researchers.
According to Science Daily, with new MRI scanning technology, researchers from the University of Freiburg discovered that “certain disorders of the hippocampus can initiate a drug resistant epilepsy.” They also found that by using biomarkers, it could help to improve epilepsy treatment options for patients. The researchers published a study in eLife.
What Does the Research Hope to Accomplish?
People all around the world suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy. Many of those millions who suffer from this condition cannot find relief through medications, as they are drug resistant. This means that the drugs other patients utilize to help them to improve their quality of life do not help. For those who are drug resistant, one of the only options they tend to have is to remove a part of the brain tissue that is affected and thought to be causing the seizures.
Injury to the tissue of the brain tends to be what causes most epilepsy cases. This injury could occur in a range of different ways, such as having an accident, suffering from a stroke, having a brain tumor, or from febrile convulsions. These injuries can cause seizures to occur, and when this happens, the tissues in the brain will change. The change can increase the risk of further epileptic seizures. The term for this is status epilepticus.
These epileptic attacks may not occur right away, and they may not happen regularly. In fact, it could be years before the occurrence of recurrent seizures. Because the seizures happen so infrequently, or because they have not occurred right after the accident, for example, the patient may not have sought treatment for them. This means that the drugs typically used for these types of conditions are not going to work on the patient and the symptoms will become permanent.
However, with the use of the new MRI procedures mentioned earlier, the researchers looked at brain tissue of mice, as well as humans. They found that if there was damage to the hippocampus, it did not mean that it would result in epilepsy. They also found that after there is a tendency to suffer from these attacks, that initial damage to the hippocampus was always found to be the cause.
The researchers measured water molecule movement in the brain that allowed them to determine how severe the epilepsy would be. They believe that “pathological changes in the hippocampus could specifically serve as biomarkers for clinical diagnosis.” This would provide doctors with the ability to predict how the disease would progress, and it could ensure that patients – even though they might not have epileptic seizures currently – could benefit from personalized treatments.
The study is just one of many projects occurring at the Freiburg Cluster of Excellence BrainLinks-BrainTools and the Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
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