Brain protein may put brakes on epileptic seizures

Posted May 31 2013 in Brain science; genetics

Scientists have identified a naturally occurring protein in the brain that may help to halt seizures in people with certain types of epilepsy.

The protein, called diazepam binding inhibitor (DBI), is produced in a deep-brain structure called the thalamus and acts like benzodiazepines such as diazepam (brand name Valium) – an early drug treatment for epilepsy – and its predecessor Librium.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the US found that DBI calms rhythms of a key brain circuit and could form the basis of a novel therapy for epilepsy with fewer side-effects than existing drugs.

Senior study author Dr John Huguenard, whose research is published in the journal Neuron, described the protein as “one of the most exciting findings we have had in many years”.

“In a very specific and very important brain circuit that we’ve been studying for many years, DBI not only leaves the cells that made it but is – or undergoes further processing to become – a natural anti-epileptic compound.”

The team now hopes to determine which cells release DBI and under what circumstances, as this could pave the way for new therapies that boost the protein’s activity in people with epilepsy and halt seizures before they get underway.

Posted by Steve Long

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