Research Study: Brain Proteins, Patterns Reveal Clues to Understanding Epilepsy

New treatments might be on the horizon for individuals dealing with epilepsy or stress and anxiety, thanks to a development discovery by UNLV, Tufts University School of Medication, and a global team of scientists studying how proteins engage to control the shooting of brain cells.

The research study, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, supplies new insight into ways to regulate a specialized “compartment” of cells in the brain that controls their signaling. If researchers and physicians can influence that compartment, they can control the firing of brain cells, which might in turn stop or avoid seizures, among other things.

UNLV neuroscientist and lead author Rochelle Hines stated managing patterns of activity are crucial to the brain’s function.

“If we can better comprehend how the brain patterns activity, we can comprehend how it may go wrong in a disorder like epilepsy, where brain activity ends up being uncontrolled,” Hines stated. “And if we can comprehend exactly what is necessary for this control, we can develop much better techniques for treating and enhancing the lifestyle for people with epileptic seizures and possibly other types of conditions as well, such as stress and anxiety or sleep disorders.”

The six-year task moved one step better to answering decades-old questions about brain wave control, by quantitatively defining how 2 crucial proteins– the GABAA receptor a2 subunit and collybistin– connect. When the interaction was interrupted in rodent models, EEG tests showed brain waves moving out of control, mimicking patterns seen in humans with epilepsy and stress and anxiety.

“That’s the piece that might potentially change books: Previously, we had questions about how these pieces fit together and thought that possibly a group of three or more proteins communicated,” Hines stated. “However our group’s research strongly suggests that there’s an extremely specific interaction in between 2 of them, and this has implications for how neuroscientists may be able to manage this location.”

Collaborating the research effort was Stephen Moss, teacher of neuroscience at Tufts and director of the AstraZeneca Lab for Basic and Translational Neuroscience in Boston. Moss said that the study results must stimulate the development of drugs that target the GABAA receptor a2 subunit as new, more efficient treatments for epilepsy.

Hines and her other half, UNLV psychology teacher Dustin Hines, worked together on the job with researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston USA, where Rochelle was a post-doctoral fellow with Moss; as well as the University of Wurzburg in Germany; University of Turin in Italy; University of Zurich in Switzerland; University College London in the UK; and the IMED Biotech Unit of AstraZeneca, Boston USA.

The research study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the German Quality Initiative.

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