Increasing the levels of certain fat molecules in the brain could suppress epileptic seizures, according to a new ground-breaking study carried out by two collaborating groups in Belgium. The work is published in the leading scientific journal, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.The team focused their efforts on a protein called TBC1D24, since mutations in the gene that encodes it cause severe epilepsy. An almost identical protein called Skywalker exists in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, an organism widely used to study different biological pathways and diseases.The researchers had previously shown that Skywalker plays a vital role in maintaining communication between brain cells. In the current study, they successfully mapped the three dimensional structure of the Skywalker protein and found that it binds to specific fat molecules in the brain of the flies.This led them to think that increasing the levels of these fats in the flies that have a faulty Skywalker gene may improve the effects of the fault. In fact, they found that the epileptic seizures completely disappeared in these flies.In a press release, Prof Verstreken, a senior author on the study, said: “Our work shows that increasing specific brain fats at the synapses of patients with a TBC1D24 mutation is a possible strategy for preventing epileptic seizures. And although our work focuses on people with TBC1D24 mutations, we think that our findings could be relevant to various forms of epilepsy.”Co-senior author, Professor Wim Versées, added: “Our two research groups will now continue to collaborate in order to seek out strategies for increasing the concentration of specific fats in the brain to prevent epileptic seizures. This research stems from cross-pollination between structural biology, biochemistry and genetics, so we will certainly continue down this interdisciplinary route.”Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more articles about brain science including genetics.
September 27th, 2016|