A closer look at ……..SYNAPTIC VESICLES

In order to conduct the millions of tasks the human brain completes every day, nerve cells must communicate with each other. Neighbouring cells are connected by junctions, which are called synapses. Chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, must travel from one cell to another across a synapse in order to deliver a message.

Before travelling across synapses, these chemical messengers are stored inside nerve cells in sack-like compartments, called synaptic vesicles. Synaptic vesicles are tiny – over 100 times smaller than the very tip of an eyelash.

Despite their small size, vesicles are thought to play an important role in epilepsy. In past work funded by Epilepsy Research UK, Dr Vincenzo Marra at the University of Leicester has discovered that vesicles reorganise themselves in brains with epilepsy. However the direct link between vesicle reorganisation and epileptic seizures is not yet fully understood.

When developing new drugs and treatments for epilepsy, scientists must first identify where they think the drug should target. This year two of our new grants are investigating vesicles in epilepsy. We hope that the work of researchers Dr Vincenzo Marra (link here) and Professor Peter Oliver (link here) may lead to new drug targets in the next 5-10 years.

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