Researchers led by Professor Michael Johnson, at Imperial College London, have identified a network of genes that is associated with epilepsy.The team believes that targeting the expression of this “epileptic network” of 320 genes, which they called M30, could be a new strategy to treat the condition.In a news release, Professor Johnson said: “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.”The genes that are part of the network are widely expressed in the brain and code for proteins involved in the communications between brain cells.When the network is impaired, due to genetic mutations or as a result of brain injury, epilepsy is triggered. According to the researchers, potential new treatments for epilepsy should focus on restoring the network.The team analysed thousands of genes and mutations associated with epilepsy in people with and without the condition. They found that the genes in the M30 network were consistently dampened in the brains of people with epilepsy, as well as in mouse models of the condition. They then used a technique called network biology to determine how these genes interact with each other.Finally, the researchers used a computer to ‘test’ 1.300 known drugs and predict which ones could increase the expression of these genes and restore the M30 network. They discovered that valproic acid, a drug already used to treat epilepsy, was one of the drugs that could restore the network. The team also identified a number of drugs such as withaferin A that were not formerly considered to be antiepileptic drugs.“Until recently we have been looking for individual genes associated with diseases, which drug companies then target with treatments. However, we are increasingly aware that genes don’t work in isolation. 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,” the authors said.The study was published in the scientific journal, Genome Biology.Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more articles about brain science including genetics.