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Following trail of cell death in epilepsy patients to find ways to preserve brain health
Date:5/5/2011

Scientists have known for years that seizures in patients with epilepsy cause progressive cell death in the brain. What they did not know was why this was happening.

That may change with a new line of research led by Professor Wilma Friedman of the Department of Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, Newark. The research is funded by a recently awarded, four-year, $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

"Researchers have identified a likely culprit in this post-seizure damage, and its name is P75," says Friedman, professor of cellular neurobiology. P75 is a receptor for a specific type of chemical in the brain called a growth factor. Growth factors can regulate the normal functions of a cell, or they can tell a cell to self-destruct.

"When a growth factor called ProNGF binds to the P75 receptor on damaged nerve cells following a seizure, it causes them to die," Friedman says. Understanding this process can help researchers determine how to prevent cell death from happening.

This research has the potential not only to benefit people with epilepsy, but also those who suffer seizures as a consequence of traumatic brain injuries and strokes. In addition, it may shed some light on how to prevent cell death in degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

Friedman and her team of Rutgers researchers are working in an ongoing collaboration with Barbara Hempstead, MD, Ph.D., at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. They have also recently developed a working relationship with Helen Scharfman, Ph.D., Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, who is associated with New York University's Langone Medical Center.

A key to learning how the ProNGF growth factor works with the P75 receptor is following it through the brain after a seizure. Similar in concept to how the migration of birds is monitored with tagging, scientists will biologically tag the proNGF growth fac
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Contact: Helen Paxton
paxton@andromeda.rutgers.edu
973-353-5262
Rutgers University
Source:Eurekalert

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