Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain's Immune System May Cause Chronic Seizures

Date:
July 7, 2009
Source:
University of Colorado at Boulder
Summary:
Chronic seizures caused by traumatic head injuries may result from chemicals released by the brain's immune system attempting to repair the injured site, according to a new study.

Chronic seizures caused by traumatic head injuries may result from chemicals released by the brain's immune system attempting to repair the injured site, according to a study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The findings could help prevent one of the most common forms of adult epilepsy, called acquired epilepsy, which is often found in people who have suffered a brain injury or infection, according to CU-Boulder psychology and neuroscience Professor Daniel Barth, the study's chief author.

For decades researchers have focused on neurons as the culprits in seizures, which can be characterized as debilitating "electrical storms" in the brain.

However, recent research has shown that micro-glial cells may play a major role in seizures. Researchers have found that glial cells, which are supportive cells that also constitute a major part of the brain's immune system, cluster within areas in the brain when a severe brain injury has occurred.

"When there has been serious damage to the brain, such as a head injury or infection, the immune system is activated and tries to counteract the damage and repair it," Barth said. "These glial cells migrate to the damaged area and release chemicals called cytokines that, unfortunately, also profoundly increase the excitability of the neurons that they are near.

"In our new study, we showed for the first time that glial cells moving in and secreting these cytokines cause the neurons in the area to become excitable enough to cause seizures."

The results of the study appear in the July issue of the journal Brain. Barth co-authored the paper with CU-Boulder professors of psychology and neuroscience Linda Watkins and Steven Maier, CU-Boulder graduate students Krista Rodgers and Alexis Northcutt and Professor Mark Hutchinson of the University of Adelaide in Australia. The National Institutes of Health funded the study.

Acquired epilepsy is one of the few forms of epilepsy that has the potential for being prevented, because known head injuries are often followed by latent periods when changes in the brain lead to the development of chronic seizures.

The findings are extremely promising, according to Barth, because if the brain's initial immunity reaction could be temporarily shut down, this could prevent the development of acquired epilepsy.

"After a traumatic brain injury, there is often a period of several months where nothing seems to be happening," Barth said. "And then suddenly the person may start having seizures, which often develop into chronic epilepsy."

What the research team believes is happening is that the initial immune response to the brain injury causes the first seizures. Then the adaptive immune system, which works on a longer-term basis, kicks in and makes structural changes in the brain, which could perpetuate epilepsy as a life-long condition, said Barth.

Drugs are available on the market that suppress the immune system temporarily, Barth said. Even more promising are drugs currently under Food and Drug Administration trials for human use that cross the blood-brain barrier, which in simple terms means patients can take a pill which will effectively suppress the glial cells and stop them from reacting.

"The thought is that maybe there is a window of opportunity where we could go in after an injury and administer one of these immune response inhibitors and stop a process that we think is going to lead to epilepsy," Barth said. "So instead of giving anti-seizure drugs, which have no effect in preventing or subsequently treating post-traumatic epilepsy, we could give some anti-immune drugs which may actually stop the process of developing epilepsy in the first place."

The research team came to its conclusions through a series of experiments with rats in which they applied a bacteria called lipopolysaccharide, or LPS, to the brain, activating the micro-glial cells. The glial cells very rapidly clustered around the area where the LPS was applied and created an immune reaction in that locale.

The glial cells then released their cytokines, causing the neurons to become excitable enough to cause seizures. By directly applying other drugs that either blocked the activation of glial cells or the effect of cytokines on neurons, all signs of increased brain excitability and seizures were abolished, Barth said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Colorado at Boulder. "Brain's Immune System May Cause Chronic Seizures." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090706161308.htm>.
University of Colorado at Boulder. (2009, July 7). Brain's Immune System May Cause Chronic Seizures. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090706161308.htm
University of Colorado at Boulder. "Brain's Immune System May Cause Chronic Seizures." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090706161308.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins