Professor Emre Yaksi from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, working with researchers from the University of Dresden, has published research on epileptic seizures in zebrafish. The fish is often used for studying how the human brain works.
The team wanted to learn why seizures start and happen so suddenly. The study found that before an epileptic seizure, nerve cells were unusually active but only in one area of the brain. Meanwhile, another type of cell called glial cells showed a large burst of activity across the brain. In a generalised seizure, the connections between these two types of cells become very energetic and the seizure rapidly spreads across the brain.
Professor Emre Yaksi said: “Our results provide evidence that the interactions between glial cells and neurons are altered during the change from a pre-seizure state to a generalised seizure. It will be interesting to see how this compares to different types of epilepsies.”
Most research into seizures has focused on neurons but little research has looked into glial cells. The results of this new study opens up another area of research that could lead to a different approach to treating epilepsy in the future.
In recent decades, a number of new epilepsy drugs have been developed, but a third of people with epilepsy still have active seizures. One reason may be that the current anti-epileptic drugs mostly target neurons, while glial cells are overlooked. The study was published in August in Nature, the International Journal of Science.