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British Scientists Discover New Protein to Treat Epilepsy and Schizophrenia

Curbing excitation through suppressing communication between the cells could be one way of treating diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia.

Researchers at the University of Bristol seem to have pitched upon a protein that could do the trick. The SUMO protein acts to damp down the amount of information transmitted to cells.

And so boosting the level of the protein in the brain could the key to tackling diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia, the Bristol scientists think.

There are 100 million nerve cells in the brain, which each have 10,000 connections, called synapses, which link to other nerves cells.

These connections chemically transmit information that control brain function via proteins called receptors. These processes are believed to be the basis of learning and memory.

In a healthy brain, synapses can modify how efficiently they work, by increasing or decreasing the amount of information transmitted.

Having too much information is a problem, but so is having too little which can cause conditions including coma.

The researchers, who carried out work on rats, found that when one type of receptor, the kainate receptor, receives a chemical signal a small protein called SUMO attaches itself.

SUMO pulls the kainate receptor out of the synapse, stopping it from receiving information from other cells and making the cell less excitable.

The scientists who discovered SUMO's role say it is interesting because it means the receptor is not destroyed, but simply lies dormant, meaning the dangers of completely cutting off communication between cells should be avoided.

Professor Jeremy Henley, who led the research, said: "We have found one mechanism that regulates the flow of information between cells in the brain.

"It is possible that increasing the amount of SUMO attached to kainate receptors - which would red
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