Grant round winners 2009

The main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain is known as GABA. If too little GABA is produced, or if its receptors aren’t working properly, this will fail to dampen the activity of excitatory nerves, causing them to fire excessively and generate a seizure.

There are several anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) that increase brain GABA and counteract the activity of excitatory nerve cells. Unfortunately these treatments are non-specific, meaning that inhibitory nerve cells are often also suppressed. As a result of this, these AEDs can sometimes even cause convulsions.

Dr Ivan Pavlov, at the Institute of Neurology, London, has been awarded £186,864, over 36-months, to carry out a fellowship entitled Cell type-specific modulation of tonic GABA(A) receptor-mediated conductances in epilepsy, in which he hopes to develop a safe way of inhibiting excitatory neuron activity, whilst leaving inhibitory neurons unaffected. He will achieve this by targeting specific GABA receptor subtypes (these differ between cell populations) and molecules that physically control the concentration of GABA in the brain.

This fellowship will increase our knowledge of inhibitory mechanisms in epilepsy, and will almost certainly potentially reveal new targets for anti-epileptic drug treatment.