Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New role for an old molecule: Protecting the brain from epileptic seizures

Date:
March 15, 2011
Source:
Brown University
Summary:
The aftermath of an epileptic seizure has some mysterious characters, including the molecule putrescine. In new research on tadpoles, which share similar brain chemistry with humans, putrescine emerges as a calming influence that conveys resistance to subsequent seizures. In the long run, the discovery could aid in developing drugs for young children with epilepsy.

Like putrescine in tadpoles The neurochemical putrescine surges in the brain after a seizure. By studying putrescine in tadpoles, researchers found that it exerts a calming effect, protecting the brain for a while against a second seizure.
Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University

For years brain scientists have puzzled over the shadowy role played by the molecule putrescine, which always seems to be present in the brain following an epileptic seizure, but without a clear indication whether it was there to exacerbate brain damage that follows a seizure or protect the brain from it. A new Brown University study unmasks the molecule as squarely on the side of good: It seems to protect against seizures hours later.

Related Articles


Putrescine is one in a family of molecules called "polyamines" that are present throughout the body to mediate crucial functions such as cell division. Why they surge in the brain after seizures isn't understood. In a lengthy set of experiments, Brown neuroscientists meticulously traced their activity in the brains of seizure-laden tadpoles. What they found is that putrescine ultimately converts into the neurotransmitter GABA, which is known to calm brain activity. When they caused a seizure in the tadpoles, they found that the putrescine produced in a first wave of seizures helped tadpoles hold out longer against a second wave of induced seizures.

Carlos Aizenman, assistant professor of neuroscience and senior author of a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, said further research could ultimately produce a drug that targets the process, potentially helping young children with epilepsy. Tadpoles and toddlers aren't much alike, but this basic aspect of their brain chemistry is.

"Overall, the findings presented in this study may have important therapeutic implications," Aizenman and co-authors wrote. "We describe a novel role for polyamine metabolism that results in a protective effect on seizures induced in developing animals."

Detective work

The result that "priming" the tadpoles with a seizure led to them being 25 percent more resistant to a subsequent seizure four hours later was "puzzling," said Aizenman, who is affiliated with the Brown Institute for Brain Science. It took about a dozen more experiments before his team, led by graduate student Mark Bell, could solve the mystery.

First they hindered polyamine synthesis altogether and found that not only did the protection against seizures disappear, but it also left the tadpoles even more vulnerable to seizures. Then they interrupted the conversion of putrescine into other polyamines and found that this step enhanced the protection, indicating that putrescine was the beneficial member of the family.

Going with those results, they administered putrescine directly to the tadpoles and found that it took 65 percent longer to induce a seizure than in tadpoles that didn't get a dose of putrescine.

Further experiments showed that the protective effect occurs after putrescine is metabolized, with at least one intermediary step, into GABA, and GABA receptors are activated in brain cells.

"Potentially by manipulating this pathway we may be able to harness an ongoing protective effect against seizures," Aizenman said. "However I should caution that this is basic research and it is premature to predict how well this would translate into the clinic."

In the meantime, the research may also help explain a bit more about young brains in general, Aizenman said.

"Our findings may also tell us how normal brains, especially developing brains, may regulate their overall levels of activity and maybe keep a type of regulatory check on brain activity levels," he said.

In addition to Aizenman and Bell, the paper's other authors are undergraduates James Belarde and Hannah Johnson. The American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health funded the study, while individual researchers were supported by the National Science Foundation, the Klingenstein Fund, and the Brain Science Siravo Awards for Epilepsy Research.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Brown University. "New role for an old molecule: Protecting the brain from epileptic seizures." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110306141624.htm>.
Brown University. (2011, March 15). New role for an old molecule: Protecting the brain from epileptic seizures. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110306141624.htm
Brown University. "New role for an old molecule: Protecting the brain from epileptic seizures." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110306141624.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania, waking up for work is the biggest factor that causes Americans to lose sleep. Video provided by Newsy
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