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Possible link between different forms of epilepsy found by Carnegie Mellon scientists
Date:6/16/2008

PITTSBURGHCarnegie Mellon University neuroscientists have identified what may be the first known common denominator underlying inherited and sporadic epilepsy a disruption in an ion channel called the BK channel. Although BK channels have been linked to a rare, familial form of epilepsy, their involvement in other types of seizure disorders has never been demonstrated. These findings, published in the June issue of Neurobiology of Disease, indicate that BK channels are a new target for anticonvulsant therapies, and offer new hope to individuals suffering from epilepsy.

The researchers discovered that BK channels become abnormally active after a seizure. This disruption results in the neurons becoming overly excitable, which may be associated with the development of epilepsy. The Carnegie Mellon scientists were able to reverse this abnormal excitability using a BK channel antagonist, which returned the post-seizure electrical activity to normal levels.

"The fact that the BK channel previously has been linked with familial epilepsy and with generalized seizures in subjects without a genetic predisposition points to a common therapeutic pathway. We've shown that BK antagonists can be very effective in normalizing aberrant electrical activity in neurons, which suggests that BK channel antagonists might be a new weapon in the arsenal against epilepsy," said Alison Barth, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon's Mellon College of Science.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder marked by abnormal electrical activity in the brain that leads to recurring seizures. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, no cause can be found in about seven out of 10 people with epilepsy. Researchers, however, have identified a genetic component in some types of epilepsy. This study establishes, for the first time, a shared component between different types of epilepsy.

"Although research has revealed that many types of inh
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Contact: Jocelyn Duffy
jhduffy@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-9982
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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