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Epilepsy-induced brain cell damage prevented in the laboratory
Date:10/29/2007

a team of researcher's in Wong's laboratory applied an approach known as multiphoton imaging to track brain cell changes during seizures. They used a drug to induce seizures in mice and imaged brain cells before, during and after seizures.

"Within minutes, we found changes were happening quite rapidly in the dendrites," Wong says. "They would become swollen and the spines would disappear. After the seizure, the swelling would go down but the spines did not return. That continued to be the case for at least 24 hours."

Scientists think spines may be linked to long-term potentiation, a phenomenon that makes it easier for messages to pass between nerve cells and may be essential for the encoding of memories. This could mean loss of spines in seizures impairs learning.

When researchers probed the mechanisms behind the spine loss, they found seizures were causing the breakdown of actin, a molecule widely used in cell structures. When they gave the mice a drug, FK506, prior to inducing seizures, they were able to block that breakdown.

"To follow-up, we're going to be looking at whether we can tie these changes in dendrite structure to behavioral changes in the mice," Woo says. "We're also going to be searching for drugs that can reverse this effect after a seizure happens. We would like to avoid putting epilepsy patients on a new drug all the time and hope instead to find something that can be given immediately after a seizure to prevent cognitive impairment."


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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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