A 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.
Most 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.