Research shows how genetic mutation causes epilepsy in infants

Oct 03, 2007

New research from the Howard Florey Institute in Melbourne has shown why mutation in a single gene can cause epilepsy in infants.

Infants are more susceptible to seizures because their brains are developing at a rapid rate, making their brain cells ‘excitable’. Their neurons are growing and making new connections with other nerve cells, which can disrupt normal brain activity and results in epilepsy.

Infants have protective mechanisms in their brains to control this excitability, but now the Florey scientists have uncovered that a single gene mutation prevents a specific ion channel from functioning correctly, thus causing excitability which results in epilepsy.

Dr Steven Petrou and his team knew the genetic mutation existed, but did not know its impact on brain function or that it may control excitability in infants’ brains.

“This discovery is helping us to understand how and why this form of epilepsy, known as benign familial neonatal-infantile seizures, appears in these infants,” Dr Petrou said.

“Interestingly, we also found that the ion channel which carries the mutation is itself naturally protective as it limits excitability in the infant brain by waiting to fully ‘switch on’ only in the adult brain.

“The mutation accelerates this normally delayed development change, leaving the susceptible infant brain with an overly excitable channel and epilepsy.

“If this switch to a more excitable state occurs too early during brain development, it is possible that epilepsy and other neurological disorders develop.

“This highlights the complexity of the human brain and how disorders can develop if one single mechanism goes awry,” he said.

This research was recently published in Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. According to Dr Petrou, potential new avenues of research may emerge from this study.

Epilepsy affects 3% of the Australian population and better treatments are urgently needed as many existing therapies have serious side-effects for patients. In 30% of cases, the current drug options available provide limited seizure relief.

There are more than 200 types of epilepsy, which can either be inherited or result from a range of causes including, head trauma, vascular disease or brain tumours.

Source: Research Australia

Explore further: First genetic link discovered to difficult-to-diagnose breast cancer sub-type

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Potassium channel gene modifies risk for epilepsy

Apr 04, 2011

Vanderbilt University researchers have identified a new gene that can influence a person's risk for developing epilepsy. The findings, reported in the March 29 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could improv ...

Recommended for you

Refining the language for chromosomes

Apr 17, 2014

When talking about genetic abnormalities at the DNA level that occur when chromosomes swap, delete or add parts, there is an evolving communication gap both in the science and medical worlds, leading to inconsistencies in ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

Apr 16, 2014

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.