WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A discovery made by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine while studying mice may help explain how some people without a genetic predisposition to epilepsy can develop the disorder.
In a study published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience, senior researcher Dwayne W. Godwin, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology and anatomy, and colleagues, report discovering that a gene, already known to predispose people who inherit an active form of it to certain forms of epilepsy, can actually be "switched on" in animals that do not appear to have inherited the active form, and therefore a genetic predisposition, to the condition. The gene codes a calcium channel in the brain that underlies seizures, so the finding may reveal a mechanism by which epilepsy develops in those with no apparent genetic predisposition to it.
"Epilepsy is a terrible disorder that affects millions of kids and adults all over the world," Godwin said. "There are many different forms of epilepsy with different symptoms. We don't know why some people acquire epilepsy the cause isn't always clear from the person's genetic makeup. We do know that in some forms of epilepsy, once someone has a seizure they tend to have more. Our findings from this study suggest that something about the brain changes that can lead to this increased tendency to have a seizure. Our study shows that an important change occurs in calcium channels that help to transmit this abnormal activity throughout the brain."
Calcium channels come in a variety of forms throughout the body and are responsible for several key functions, depending on their placement and quantity. The calcium channels in the brain are normally embedded within the membrane of brain cells, where they allow passage of calcium ions into the cell and are responsible for the electrical activity of the brain. The passage of calcium ions into cells determines how excitable the cells are, and
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Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center