Research highlight

Stem-ming the tide of epileptic seizures

Nature Neuroscience

May 6, 2013

Injecting progenitors of inhibitory neurons into the hippocampal region of adult epileptic mice can reduce the frequency of seizures and correct behavioral deficits, reports a paper published this week in Nature Neuroscience.

Epileptic seizures involve the synchronized firing of neurons in the brain, often resulting in symptoms such as periods of vigorous muscle contraction and/or loss of consciousness. One potential cause for epileptic seizures is the dysfunction of a population of neurons called inhibitory interneurons whose primary role is to limit the activity of other neuronal cells.

Robert Hunt, Scott Baraban and colleagues have found that if they inject the precursors of inhibitory interneurons into the hippocampus - a region of the brain which is necessary for learning and memory - of mice, the cells can become functional inhibitory interneurons and can decrease the frequency of seizures in these animals.The authors report that this is true even if the mice have already experienced one or more seizures prior to the injection. In addition, the authors show that these injections can improve the behavioral deficits that the mice exhibit after the onset of seizures.

While stem cell-based therapies have been postulated for the treatment of many diseases, including epilepsy, the current study provides valuable evidence to show that engrafting stem cells into the brain of mice can be efficacious even after the onset of symptoms and seizures. Future work is needed before a similar treatment will be ready for translation to the clinic, but this is an important first step in demonstrating the potential of the approach.

doi: 10.1038/nn.3392

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