Rethinking Seizure Care Blog

Research Shows Epilepsy Could Cause Defensive Cells in the Brain to Collapse

Posted by RSC Diagnostics on Oct 2, 2019



Even though there are millions of people around the world who suffer from epilepsy, there is still relatively little known about this very serious condition. Some recent research into the field has shown that seizures will occur after some of the defense cells located in the brain have broken down.

Seizures can begin for any range of reasons, such as head injuries or genetics. Sometimes, the seizures can arise from seemingly out of nowhere and they can be an ever-present threat in a person’s life. This can cause those individuals to change their habits, and it can cause them to be afraid. Naturally, it causes them to limit the things that they are able to do in their life.

What is New Research Showing?

Fortunately, there are a number of doctors and researchers who are researching tirelessly in this field. Researchers have found that the glial cells in the brain can fail, and this can be an underlying cause of a seizure. The results of this recent study were published in Nature Communications.

How did they come to this conclusion? They studied zebrafish who were undergoing epileptic seizures. These small fish are transparent, which means it is possible to observe what’s happening in their nervous system easier than it is with other types of creatures. They found that the glial cells were having issues.

The glial cells are a part of the neural network that transmits signals to the brain. There are many different types of glial cells that serve different functions, such as providing neuron support, helping with the immune system, and increasing the speed of neural signals.

Researchers discovered that there were certain patterns that were happening before and during epileptic seizures. Before the seizures, the glial cells were showing “large busts of synchronous activity, widely dispersed across the brain.” During the seizures, the activity of the neurons increased substantially. The connection between the nerve cells and the glial cells were very active. Researchers also found that there was an increase in the level of glutamate in the brain. This is a neurotransmitter that is used to transmit signals between cells.

The researchers believe that it is an accumulation of activity that does not stop that is causing the events that lead to a seizure. With humans, epilepsy can be caused by a variety of things, such as injury, disease, and problems with the formation of the brain.

There is now a belief that the firing of the glial cells happens as something of a defense mechanism. They can help to absorb the glutamate that is created when the nerve cells start to become more active. The goal of the cells is likely to help to prevent the “overproduction of excitatory neurotransmitters” that would lead to a seizure. However, the glial cells only provide this protection for a certain amount of time before they can no longer handle it.

Essentially, the defenses of the brain start to break down, and it is at that point that the seizure occurs.

Research Could Lead to New Therapies

By gaining more insight into the field, it helps other researchers to begin to develop new therapies and drugs that might be able to help patients. While there are a number of patients who are able to control their seizures, there are still about 33% of patients that have hard to treat epilepsy. By finding new treatment and therapy options, it could provide some relief for a large number of patients. Of course, more research and studies are needed in this area.




Topics: Epilepsy Research