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
|Contact: Daniel Barth|
University of Colorado at Boulder