This issue of Epilepsy Research News includes summaries of articles on:
Predicting Seizures in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
Seizures can be predicted more than 30 minutes before they occur in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy, possibly opening the door to preventing seizures from happening, according to a new study. Researchers used electroencephalography (EEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain, to examine periods of potentially heightened risk for seizures known as “pro-ictal states.” The researchers were able to detect pro-ictal states in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy approximately 30 minutes or more before seizure onset. This information could lead to the development of electrical stimulation or drug therapies aimed at preventing seizures in people with this type of epilepsy. “The ability to predict seizures before they occur is a major step forward in the field of epilepsy research,” a study author stated.
Altered Brain Signaling in People with Epilepsy Detected Through Non-Invasive Approach
New research has found that large-scale changes in the activation of neurons can be detected in the brains of people with temporal lobe epilepsy during a resting state (a state in which the brain is not stimulated by tasks or input), even when no seizure is occurring. The non-invasive approach uses EEG to detect changes in brain activity and could lead to a new method to aid in the diagnosis of epilepsy. While the brain is at rest, spontaneous waves of neuronal activation are constantly generated in a phenomenon called a “neuronal avalanche.” The researchers demonstrated that even during the resting state it is possible to detect a change in the neuronal avalanches in the brains of people with epilepsy. The researchers suggested that this method might be used as a preliminary diagnostic method, especially for difficult cases where standard scalp EEG fails to detect seizures, but additional investigations are necessary.
Simple Blood Test Shows Potential Biomarker to Distinguish Epileptic from Non-Epileptic Psychogenic Seizures
Researchers have discovered higher levels of immune proteins in the blood before and after an epileptic seizure. In this study, researchers discovered that levels of five inflammation markers, or proteins, were elevated in people with temporal or frontal lobe epilepsy who had experienced a seizure. Among patients with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES), however, there was no change in the protein levels. These proteins, therefore, have the potential to be future biomarkers for a diagnosis of epilepsy. Diagnosing epilepsy from a simple blood draw would provide a significant advantage over the current diagnostic standards which may include admittance to a hospital for several days with constant video and EEG surveillance.
Study Investigates Therapy for Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy
In a new study, researchers report that sodium selenate could be the first curative drug therapy for epilepsy. The study, conducted in an animal model of drug-resistant epilepsy, revealed sodium selenate to have a long-lasting effect (after months of stopping the medication) in reducing the frequency of seizures and in 30% of cases stopping them altogether. Sodium selenate also improved other aspects of epilepsy such as memory, learning, and sensor-motor functioning. The researchers will next begin a clinical trial of sodium selenate as a curative treatment in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. “Despite the cost of the disease and the enormous amount of research into it, there has not been a single therapy developed to prevent the development of epilepsy,” stated a study author. “This Phase 2 clinical trial, if effective, has the potential to tackle a disease that is an enormous global burden as well as being truly transformative for people who are impacted by often daily seizures, with no respite.”
Insights into the Drivers of Glioma-Related Epilepsy
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, including former CURE Epilepsy grantee Dr. Jeff Noebels, report that glioma tumors in the brain can interfere with the ability of surrounding neurons to handle potassium, an important ion in neuronal communication. The disruption of this normal neural function drives seizures and favors the progression of epilepsy. The team found that patients who have seizures have increased expression of genes involved in the formation of neuronal connections or synapses. In both humans with glioma and animal models, the researchers identified one of the genes, IGSF3, as the driver that mediated seizures in glioma-related epilepsy. The team found that IGSF3 suppresses the ability of these cells to take up potassium, which leads to its accumulation of this ion and then seizures. “Our studies reveal that tumor progression and seizures are triggered by disruption of potassium handling. The findings support further studies into novel strategies to control seizures and tumor growth,” stated one of the study’s authors.