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Gene linked to higher risk of post-traumatic injury seizures

25 June, 2003

People who inherit a particular gene involved in lipid metabolism in the brain appear to be at higher risk of developing seizures after traumatic brain injury, according to researchers at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

A study published in the journal Archives of Neurology found that patients with moderate to severe brain injuries who had inherited the epsilon 4 variation of the apolipoprotein E (apoE) gene were 2.41 times more likely to develop seizures than patients without the gene.

Dr Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, lead author of the paper, said that the finding may lead to new therapies that could prevent brain-injury patients from developing seizures:

"Post-traumatic epilepsy is a common and frequently complication of traumatic brain injury, for which there is no effective prophylactic therapy, What this finding indicates is that if we learn to manipulate aspects of lipid or lipoprotein metabolism in the brain we may be able to develop therapies to prevent post-traumatic epilepsy."

Approximately 20-25 per cent of patients with moderate to severe brain injury, such as injuries sustained during a car crash, develop epilepsy.

Dr Diaz-Arrastia continued:

"After the injury, there is rewiring and sprouting of the nerve cells. That is often a good thing, because it allows recovery. It can also be bad if that rewiring results in a circuit that is, in a sense, misfiring."

Researchers obtained information on 106 patients with diagnoses of moderate or severe brain injury who were admitted to the neurological surgery service at Parkland Memorial Hospital. The patients were evaluated six months after admittance to determine the outcome of their injuries. Scientists also obtained DNA samples to determine which variation of the apoE gene was present in each patient.