British scientists have identified a gene network in the brain that is associated with epilepsy, a discovery which may lead to additional treatment for the condition.
Epilepsy that affects over 50 million people worldwide is a disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures, which are thought to be caused by brain cells sending faulty signals to each other.
The study revealed an ‘epileptic network’ of 320 genes, called M30, which are thought to be involved in how brain cells communicate with each other.
The results suggest that when this network malfunctions, it triggers epilepsy and finding medications that restore this network to normal could provide desperately needed new treatments.
“The discovery of this network of genes linked to epilepsy opens avenues for finding new treatments. This uses an approach that is entirely different to the past 100 years of anti-epilepsy drug development,” said Michael Johnson, Professor at Imperial College London in Britain.
Interestingly, the network seems to malfunction in epilepsy caused by genetic causes, as well as epilepsy triggered by brain injury such as following stroke or infection, the study said.
In the new research, scientists used a new method called ‘network biology’ where computer systems are used to identify gene networks that work together to underpin disease that may also help find treatments for other conditions.
“Identifying groups of genes that work together, and then targeting these networks of genes, may lead to more effective treatments. Our proof of concept study suggests this network biology approach could help us identify new medications for epilepsy, and the methods can also be applied to other diseases,” Johnson noted.
The study was published in the journal Genome Biology.