GLOBAL: Breakthrough in epilepsy treatment

An international team of scientists has made breakthrough progress in
diagnosing and treating epilepsy in mice, an important discovery that promises potential development of a major drug for this common condition.

According to the research team, mice share an almost identical version of a gene with humans which they have linked to epilepsy.

Scientists from Canada, Denmark and the UK focused their study on a strain of mouse with an inherited form of severe epilepsy. The research suggested the mice shared a defective ATP1A3 gene which is responsible for pumping sodium and potassium ions across the cell membrane.

By breeding these epileptic mice with mice that had an extra copy of a non-defective version of ATP1A3 gene, the research team noticed their offspring were born without this debilitating condition.

"Our study has identified a new way in which epilepsy can be caused and prevented in mice and therefore it may provide clues to potential causes, therapies and preventive measures in human epilepsy," commented Dr Steve Clapcote, a member of the faculty of biological sciences at the University of Leeds in the UK.

The study will appear in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .

An estimated one in 200 people are affected by epilepsy, a condition that is identified by recurring seizures triggered by an excess of electrical activity in the brain which disrupts the communication between brain cells.