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Study Links Epilepsy to Brain Protein

Research on mice points to possible cause of seizures

THURSDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- New research has uncovered possible causes of epilepsy related to signals in the brain that go haywire.

It suggests that when a certain protein is missing in the brains of mice, the animals have epileptic seizures. The protein appears to be important to the brain's ability to calm and fine-tune itself.

The researchers, who report their findings in the Sept. 18 issue of Cell, found that neural connections in the brain were excitable in the mice even though connections appeared normal.

When the protein was restored, the brains of the mice began acting normally again.

The specific protein referred to is one encoded by plasticity related gene-1 (PRG-1) and is found only in the brain, according to the researchers. Its calming effect depends on how the protein interacts with lipids that provide a signaling function in the brain.

Epilepsy occurs when signals in the brain become disrupted. People with the condition can suffer from a long list of symptoms, including seizures, strange behavior and emotions, and loss of consciousness.

There's no cure for the disorder, but it can be controlled by medicine and surgery in an estimated 80 percent of cases. In recent years, people with epilepsy have turned to a device that stimulates the body's vagus nerve.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on epilepsy.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Cell Press, press release, Sept. 17, 2009

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