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Study of proteins may lead to new epilepsy medication

27 October, 2004

New technology
enabling researchers to measure protein levels in human tissue may lead
to new anti-epileptic drugs, according to research presented to the
annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Qiang Gu, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center,
told the meeting that there are about 30,000 different genes, however,
little is known about the hundreds of thousands of proteins that are
manufactured by genes. However, a study being led by Gu is measuring
levels of more than 500 different proteins in tissue samples to see if
certain proteins are increased or decreased in patients with
Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy. If this happens then this would
suggest new targets for medication.

For
the study, the researchers focused on patients whose seizures could not
be controlled with medication who had surgery to remove a small portion
of their temporal lobes, the part of the brain where the seizures
originated. Tissue samples from two of these patients were compared
with tissue samples from subjects of the same age and sex.

Testing
revealed that proteins involved in signal transduction - or cell growth
- were increased in the patients with epilepsy. The scientists
identified a specific pathway within cells that uses these proteins.

Professor Gu commented:

'Our
results suggest that an increase in signal transduction proteins may
underlie the development of epilepsy. Drugs to inhibit this particular
pathway could one day be a new treatment for epilepsy.'

The
researchers will continue the work by conducting animal studies to
learn more about the pathway and when the proteins increase. Professor
Gu added:

'If the protein is increased in stages before the onset of epilepsy, perhaps there could be an intervention to prevent it.'