16 July : Scientists claim to have found that chronic seizures following head injuries may be a result of the brain trying to repair itself, a finding which could prevent some of the most common forms of adult epilepsy.For decades, researchers have focused on neurons as the culprits in seizures, which can actually be characterised as debilitating “electrical storms” in the brain.Now, a team at Colorado University has found that micro-glial cells play a major role in seizures.
In fact, the scientists have found that glial cells, which are supportive cells that also constitute a major part of the brain’s immune system, cluster within areas in the brain when a severe brain injury has occurred.
“When there has been serious damage to the brain, such as a head injury or infection, the immune system is activated and tries to counteract the damage and repair it.
These glial cells migrate to the damaged area and release chemicals called ‘cytokines’ that profoundly increase the excitability of the neurons that they are near.
“In our new study, we showed for the first time that glial cells moving in and secreting these cytokines cause the neurons in the area to become excitable enough to cause seizures,” team leader Prof Daniel Barth said.