JUN 10, 2019 05:18 PM PDT

Finding a Way to Predict Epileptic Seizures

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Epilepsy is a general term that refers to abnormal brain activity that causes seizures. Anyone can get the disease, and in about half of the cases, there is an identifiable cause such as head trauma, a developmental disorder or infectious illness. Around 3.4 million people in the United States suffer from epilepsy, which can seriously disrupt a person’s quality of life especially because the seizures are so unpredictable. While they may be incredibly inconvenient, they can also occur at dangerous times, such as while a person is driving. Most of the time, people with epilepsy don’t know when they are about to have a seizure.

New research from scientists at FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases hosted at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) may help change that. They identified a pattern of molecules that can be detected in the blood before the occurrence of a seizure. These molecules might offer clinicians and patients a way to detect the onset of seizures. Their findings have been reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI).

"People with epilepsy often report that one of the most difficult aspects of living with the disease is never knowing when a seizure will occur," said the lead author of the report Dr. Marion Hogg, FutureNeuro investigator, Honorary Lecturer at RCSI. "The results of this study are very promising. We hope that our tRNA research will be a key first step toward developing an early warning system."

Transfer RNA fragments, which are molecules that help cells to construct proteins from the instructions in DNA, get cut up when cells are stressed. The researchers found that the levels of certain tRNA fragments in the blood are a way to detect stress in brain cells, which happens before a seizure occurs.

Dr. Marion Hogg, Honorary Lecturer at RCSI and FutureNeuro investigator, found a pattern of molecules that appear in the blood before a seizure happens, which may lead to the development of an early warning system for those with epilepsy. / Credit: Maxwell Photography

By using epilepsy patient blood samples, the scientists confirmed that the amounts of three tRNA fragments in the blood spike many hours before a seizure happens.

"New technologies to remove the unpredictability of uncontrolled seizures for people with epilepsy are a very real possibility," said study co-author and Professor David Henshall, Director of FutureNeuro and Professor of Molecular Physiology and Neuroscience at RCSI. "Building on this research we in FutureNeuro hope to develop a test prototype, similar to a blood sugar monitor that can potentially predict when a seizure might occur."


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via RCSI, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionJCI

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 20, 2019
Microbiology
JUN 20, 2019
Why Yellowstone Hosts an Incredibly Diverse Microbial Community
The diversity of microbes in a thumbnail-sized mix of volcanic gases, rainwater and snow is greater than the animal and plant diversity in all of Yellowstone....
JUN 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 20, 2019
A Cellular Mechanism for Repairing DNA Damage is Revealed
Our DNA is exposed to carcinogens and other factors that can cause damage. Damaged DNA can lead to diseases like cancer....
JUN 20, 2019
Neuroscience
JUN 20, 2019
Newborn brain cells, even at old age
Neurogenesis is the growth or development of new neural cells. One of the most heated debates in neuroscience is whether or not neurogenesis ceases once th...
JUN 20, 2019
Microbiology
JUN 20, 2019
A New Human Virus is Identified
No one knows how many viruses there are on our planet. We know of about 220 that infect people, and now we can add one to the list....
JUN 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 20, 2019
How Cas13 Works in Bacteria
Cas13 makes a great diagnostic tool, and now researchers know why it naturally makes so many cuts in RNA....
JUN 20, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
JUN 20, 2019
Modeling Cell Division Outside of the Cell
As organisms grow, their cells have to move into the right places. Cells move as they divide, build, and maintain all kinds of organisms....
Loading Comments...