There are many types of epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes recurrent seizures or periods of altered behaviours or sensations. Around one per cent of the world’s population is thought to be impacted, or as many as 70 million people. In epilepsy, the electrical signals transmitted through neurons in the brain are disrupted. There are some treatments for the disorder, but as many as one-third of cases don’t respond to current therapies.
Scientists have now found a new approach for treating epilepsy that focuses on correcting abnormalities in the blood-brain barrier, which have been associated with epilepsy. The findings have been reported in Nature Communications.
Brain cells use a lot more energy compared to most other cells types in the body. A network of capillaries called the blood-brain barrier (BBB) provides those cells with the nutrients they need, while carefully protecting the brain. The BBB is so extensive, that each brain cell seems to be fed by its own capillary. But when that network of blood vessels becomes disrupted and its integrity is impaired, seizures may occur.
This research has suggested that if the lost integrity can be restored in the BBB, seizures would be prevented. If additional research confirms these findings, it could lead to treatments for epilepsy patients that don’t respond to current drug options, said senior study author Dr. Matthew Campbell, an Associate Professor at Trinity College Dublin. “This work represents one of the first conclusive studies that pinpoint a key feature of seizures that has, to date, not been studied in great molecular detail.”