Researchers at the Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, have revealed that their recent findings could lead to a possible approach that can prevent epilepsy seizures.
The team noted that the findings suggest that designing medicines aimed at stabilising the integrity of blood vessels in the brain may hold promise in treating patients who are currently non-responsive to anti-seizure medications.
The study was published in the peer-reviewed international journal, Nature Communications.
In the study, the researchers described epilepsy as a chronic central nervous system disorder affecting approximately one per cent of the population and 50 million people worldwide.
They pointed out that it is characterised by recurrent, spontaneous seizures caused by disrupted electrical activity in the brain.
According to them, while the brain accounts for just two per cent of human body mass, it expends almost 20 per cent of the body’s daily energy production.
The researchers noted that in order to maintain this high energy demand, brain cells are nourished by an intricate network of capillaries that forms the so-called blood-brain barrier.
Trinity College on its website noted, “Essentially, it is the disruption to the integrity of these capillaries and the BBB that the trinity scientists are certain is a key driver of seizure activity in humans. Encouragingly though, their new study shows that restoring that integrity can avert seizures.
The World Health organisation noted that epilepsy accounts for a significant proportion of the world’s disease burden, affecting around 50 million people worldwide.
According to the UN health agency, the estimated proportion of the general population with active epilepsy (continuing seizures or with the need for treatment) at a given time is between four and 10 per 1000 people.
“Globally, an estimated five million people are diagnosed with epilepsy each year. In high-income countries, there are estimated to be 49 per 100 000 people diagnosed with epilepsy each year.
“In low- and middle-income countries, this figure can be as high as 139 per 100 000. This is likely due to the increased risk of endemic conditions such as malaria or neurocysticercosis; the higher incidence of road traffic injuries; birth-related injuries; and variations in medical infrastructure, the availability of preventive health programmes and accessible care. Close to 80% of people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income countries,” the WHO stated.
An associate Professor in Trinity’s School of Genetics and Microbiology, Dr. Matthew Campbell, said, “Our findings suggest that designing medicines aimed at stabilising the integrity of blood vessels in the brain may hold promise in treating patients who are currently non-responsive to anti-seizure medications.
“This work represents one of the first conclusive studies that pinpoint a key feature of seizures that have to date not been studied in great molecular detail.”
The scientists said they were able to illustrate that disruption of BBB was a key driver of seizure activity in humans – and that the discovery holds real potential in moving the discoveries closer to real and meaningful therapy.
The first author of the study and postdoctoral research fellow, Dr. Chris Greene, said, “We are excited about the potential our findings hold for advancing the field of epilepsy research, as well as other neurological conditions.
“In fact, stabilising the integrity of blood vessels in the brain could have relevance for a wide range of other diseases and we are just at the beginning of the process in driving the research forward.”
Also, Professor Colin Doherty, Professor of Epilepsy at Trinity College, said, “This work was the culmination of many years of collaboration between both clinical and basic research groups. It simply wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment of patients and their interest in getting involved in research studies aimed at better understanding their condition.”
Contact: [email protected]