Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews


Print Page Follow BioNews on Twitter BioNews RSS feed

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook






Gene therapy controls epilepsy in rats

27 February 2012

By Dr Lux Fatimathas

Appeared in BioNews 646

Researchers in the US have used gene therapy to reduce the severity of seizures in a rat model of epilepsy.

The gene injected into the rats codes for somatostatin, a hormone that is normally found at lower levels in people with epilepsy. Levels of this hormone in the brain have been shown to drop during an epileptic seizure.

The findings may help in the development of new therapies targeting the prevention of epileptic seizures, potentially benefiting people with epilepsy who do not respond to current methods of drug treatment.

'For years people have focused only on treating the disease, not preventing the disease', said Professor Paul Carney of the University of Florida's School of Medicine and lead author of the study. 'Gene therapy, as well as other forms of treatment, is emerging, and there is the hope and promise they will offer more effective and novel treatments for people with drug-resistant epilepsy'.

Over 450,000 people in the UK have epilepsy, a condition where the electrical impulses between nerve cells become disrupted, often resulting in seizures. The most common form of this condition is temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), and around 30 percent of patients with TLE do not respond to conventional drug treatment. It was this variant of the disease which was mimicked in the rats in this experiment.

The gene for somatostatin was encoded in a harmless virus before being injected into the hippocampus, a region of the brain. The hippocampus contains many somatostatin-producing nerve cells.

Following the injection, electrical stimulations were used to induce seizures in the rats. The gene injections enabled scientists to reduce both the duration and strength of the seizures. None of the rats that received the injections suffered the highest level of seizure and the therapy seemed to work without producing any notable negative side effects.

'Being able to restore somatostatin up to normal levels allows the brain to heal itself and that is the idea here. We're putting something back in that is normally there and allowing the brain to pick it up as part of its normal machinery. We're not putting in a drug', said Professor Carney.

Extensive further research is required before any similar therapy could be used in humans. Among other challenges, scientists would need to find a suitable method to deliver the gene to the brain. There is also the question of where in the brain to target the hormone.

Dr Edward Bertram of the University of Virginia, who was not involved in the study, pointed out that 'What effect a compound is going to have partly depends on where in the seizure circuit that new compound or gene is being placed – where should we be putting this to have the best effect?' Nonetheless, Dr Bertram called the study 'a great first step'.

This study was published in the journal Neuroscience Letters.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Neuroscience Letters | 05 January 2012
 
Gene therapy could prevent seizures, study finds
Epilepsy Research UK | 20 February 2012
 
University of Florida News | 14 February 2012
 
UF researchers make seizure discovery
Suncoast News | 22 February 2012
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

19 August 2013 - by James Brooks 
Two genetic variants have been pinpointed by researchers as causing two of the most severe forms of childhood epilepsy... [Read More]
22 April 2013 - by Purvi Shah 
Researchers in Australia have identified a genetic link to a common form of epilepsy, which could lead the way to genetic testing for this type of the condition.... [Read More]

09 May 2011 - by Rosemary Paxman 
A gene mutation thought to be responsible for the rare hereditary brain disorder Kufs disease has been identified, scientists report. The research was carried out by Dr Melanie Bahlo and her team at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute's bioinformatics department in Parkville, Australia... [Read More]
10 August 2009 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
UK scientists have identified a genetic cause of epilepsy in mice. If the same Mutation proves to be associated with forms of human epilepsy, then this discovery could one day lead to the development of improved treatments or even a cure for the disorder.... [Read More]
17 November 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens 
US researchers have unveiled a new study - the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP) - to try and pinpoint the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to epilepsy and explain why some people respond differently to epilepsy medicine. The study, both the first and the largest of its kind... [Read More]
06 November 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Two defective genes, which normally cause epilepsy when inherited individually, have been found to protect against seizures when inherited as a pair, according to a report published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The researchers, based at Baylor Medical Centre in Texas, found that mice genetically engineered to... [Read More]

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

 


 

- click here to enquire about using this story.

Printer Friendly Page

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

Advertise your products and services HERE - click for further details

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation

Good Fundraising Code

Find out more about the Progress Educational Trust by downloading our brochure HERE