OCT 14, 2020 9:24 PM PDT

Researchers Pinpoint Neurons Affected by Epilepsy

WRITTEN BY: Amanda Mikyska

Video: Explains in more detail the different receptors affected by epilepsy.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen were able to pinpoint specific subtypes of nerve cells and neural circuits affected by epilepsy.  Epilepsy is highly variable between individuals and the severity of their case, so understanding exactly which neurons are malfunctioning is critical to successfully treating epilepsy patients of all kinds.

Until now, sequencing technology only allowed for studying the expression of genes in whole layers of the brain, which include many different types and subtypes of neurons.  The imprecise technology and variability across patients turned up few commonly affected genes.  Therefore, even a cocktail of treatment options does not target a patient's specific problem, leaving 30-40% of severely epileptic patients to experience seizures still.  

The Khodosevich laboratory in Copenhagen employed single-nuclei RNA sequencing (snRNA-Seq) to identify specific points of overexcitation in neural circuits.  The researchers found that in the temporal cortex alone, more than 60 subtypes of neurons and more than 20,000 genes were dysregulated in some way and contribute to seizures.  Most of these genes have not been linked to epilepsy before because they are not common to all, or even most, cases.  

For example, in just the fifth and sixth layers of the epileptic cortex, the researchers found various dysregulated genes, the effects of which fuel the severity of one another.  For example, GLUR1 is upregulated, which is thought to increase the excitability of neurons.  Simultaneously, GLUR2 is downregulated, which allows more calcium to flow, interrupting cell signaling and compounding the severity of a seizure caused by the upregulation of GLUR1.

The snRNA-Seq method suspends individual neurons in droplets, keeping them intact, unlike traditional methods that use enzymes to force cells' separation.  Neurons are too delicate for the enzymatic methods, and therefore could not be sequenced on a single-celled basis until now.  

Future studies will continue to look at the effect of specific types and subtypes of neurons to determine which pathways are major drivers of seizures and which agitate the condition.  The goal is to use this precise understanding of epilepsy to improve the effectiveness of treatment.


Sources: Biocompare, Khodosevich et. al.

About the Author
  • Amanda graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a degree in Biology. After working in research on creating biochemicals from genetically engineered yeast, she started freelance science writing while traveling the world. Now, Amanda is a Lab Manager and Research Assistant at the the University of Central Florida, studying the molecular phylogeny of parasitic wasps. She writes about the latest research in Neuroscience, Genetics & Genomics, and Immunology. Interested in working on solutions for food/water security, sustainable fuel, and sustainable farming. Amanda is an avid skier, podcast listener, and has run two triathlons.
You May Also Like
SEP 02, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Feeling Tired? Scientists Use Brain Scans to Measure Fatigue
SEP 02, 2020
Feeling Tired? Scientists Use Brain Scans to Measure Fatigue
Yawning in the middle of the day is completely normal for people with hectic schedules. How do you know whether it&rsquo ...
OCT 11, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Newly-Found Molecules May Treat Neurodegeneration
OCT 11, 2020
Newly-Found Molecules May Treat Neurodegeneration
The NMDA receptor is known to play a crucial role in memory, and synaptic plasticity - where neurons change, altering ne ...
OCT 21, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Exercise Reverses Learning Impairments from Cannabinoid Issues
OCT 21, 2020
Exercise Reverses Learning Impairments from Cannabinoid Issues
While cannabinoids usually get attention for their recreational effects, these molecules play a role in several other pr ...
NOV 08, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Psychedelic Mushrooms Effectively Treat Major Depression
NOV 08, 2020
Psychedelic Mushrooms Effectively Treat Major Depression
Over 17 million people in the US and 300 million people worldwide are estimated to have experienced major depression. No ...
NOV 08, 2020
Neuroscience
New Way to Restore Fatty Myelin Sheaths on Nerve Cells
NOV 08, 2020
New Way to Restore Fatty Myelin Sheaths on Nerve Cells
Researchers from the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center in the US have discovered a new approach to restore myelin sheaths, ...
NOV 20, 2020
Neuroscience
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Autoimmune Disease
NOV 20, 2020
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Autoimmune Disease
Researchers from the University of Georgia have found more evidence for the link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) a ...
Loading Comments...