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Cell therapy: epilepsy cure?

24 May, 2013

Brain cellsA new research study has succeeded in stopping seizures in mice using cell therapy. It is hoped that this is a major breakthrough in epilepsy treatment that might mean a cure for some human epilepsies

The study was done at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). There, scientists transplanted a certain type of cells into the brains of mice who were having seizures. Introducing cells like this is called cell therapy. The cells transplanted were medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) cells.

MGE cells inhibit signalling in the brain. They are the types of cells that often do not function properly in people with epilepsy. When those cells fail to inhibit (dampen) overactive brain cells, they all fire together – causing the seizure.

The new MGE cells were transplanted into the hippocampus in the brains of the mice. The hippocampus plays a role in learning and memory in humans, and is often the place where seizures begin. After cell therapy, half the mice stopped having any seizures at all. The other half showed a dramatic reduction in the number of seizures they had.

image of human brainMost available epilepsy treatments only affect seizures – the symptoms of the condition. The UCSF scientists – led by Scott C Baraban PhD – suspect that they have successfully treated the underlying cause of the epilepsy. Currently, only surgery can do the same, removing the cause of the epilepsy altogether.

Dr Baraban said: “Our results are an encouraging step toward using inhibitory neurons for cell transplantation in adults with severe forms of epilepsy.”

The full research study was published in an online edition of the medical journal Nature Neuroscience on 5 May.

This research must be developed before the technique can be tested in human epilepsy. However, it may represent a genuine hope of an epilepsy cure for some people.

Comments: read the 5 comments or add yours


reading this story is intreging, i have epilepsy myself and was wondering how long do you reacon it will be before the human testing takes part

Submitted by alex on

Hi Alex

I agree that the article is very interesting. Unfortunately we do not have any extra information so we cannot really speculate on the time scales involved.


Web Content Officer

Submitted by John on

Hi i suffer from primary generalised epilepsy but i havent had a seizure for 3 years so i was just wondering if i should stop taking my medication

Submitted by luke on

Dear Luke

If you wish to stop taking your epilepsy medicine you should talk to your doctor first. Some people have to take their epilepsy for the rest of their life, even if they no longer have seizures. But some people can stop taking their epilepsy medicine when they have been seizure-free for a few years. It really depends what type of epilepsy you have, and whether it’s a type that can go away. It’s important not to stop taking your epilepsy without getting advice from your epilepsy specialist.  Your epilepsy specialist will need to consider you chances of staying seizure free, and discuss any risk & benefits with you.


Diane Wallace

Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane on

If there is a chance that cell therapy will succeed in preventing certain epilepsy types then there is further chance that neuroscientists will find other better ways to cure epileptic seizures but in my opinion just on cell therapy would not cure all types of epilepsy

Submitted by Professor Fernando on

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