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New role for an old molecule: protecting the brain from epileptic seizures
Date:3/6/2011

ith 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.


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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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