A ‘baby whale’ may help to further our understanding of epilepsy

Researchers from the University of Texas believe that what they have learnt from a ‘baby whale’ which uses electrical pulses to navigate around its world may help humans in the future by shedding light on how those same electrical pathways operate in conditions such as epilepsy.  Their findings have the potential to further our understanding of the role of potassium ion channels in epilepsy.

Potassium ion channels have long been the focus of much research into epilepsy. Now the researchers from Austin have identified that the fish is able to open this channel very quickly and therefore be more sensitive to voltage, allowing it to discharge electrical impulses with great speed. Their findings may help shed light on how these electrical pathways work in those people diagnosed with epilepsy. As Swapna Immani from the University of Texas says “Mutations in potassium channels that make them too sensitive or not sensitive enough to electrical stimuli can lead to epilepsy or cardiac and muscle diseases. So understanding what controls the sensitivity of potassium channels to stimuli is important for health as well as a basic understanding of ion channels.”  You can read more about this research here

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