Microlesions in Epilepsy
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You may not be aware that epilepsy affects one in a hundred Americans, making it a rather common brain disorder. A contestant on this season’s American Idol is epileptic and had to wear dark glasses to keep the blinking lights from triggering an attack.

While some people respond well to treatment, a third don’t and for most epileptics the cause of their seizures remains a mystery. Researchers are looking into a possible explanation. Using a combination of genetic analysis, mathematical modeling and microscopic imaging, scientists have identified millimeter sized microlesions in the brains of fifteen people who had surgery for their epilepsy. Their brains had otherwise appeared normal.

But in these microlesions, researchers found eleven groups of genes that either expressed too much or too little in brain tissues with high electrical activity. Based on what these genes encoded, researchers predicted that compared with normal tissue, the microlesions would have more blood vessels and cells involved in inflammation.

To confirm their hunch, they stained sections of microlesions and put them under a microscope. Sure enough they found inflammation and increased blood vessels. They also found neurons in these lesions had lost connections with one another, limiting the communication between them. This may cause the aberrant electrical signaling that triggers seizures in epileptics.

The study needs more work but may guide scientists to a new therapy to help the millions of people who suffer from disabling seizures daily.