New role for immune system in epilepsy onset discovered

Posted Jul 28 2014 in Brain science; genetics

The immune system may play a previously unknown role in the development of chronic epilepsy and other conditions following a brain injury.

A team from the Cleveland Clinic have identified a role for a protein known as S100B – which serves as a biomarker for brain damage – in the onset of memory impairment and cognitive dysfunction associated with conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and concussions.

Published in PLOS One, the study showed how S100B can leak from the brain and spinal column into the blood following a head injury. It is then identified as a foreign substance by the immune system, which releases antibodies to attack the protein.

This leads to the immune system acting against the brain itself, eventually bringing on chronic neurological diseases. If further research can confirm this, it could allow anti-inflammatory therapies or immunomodulators to be offered to brain injury patients.

Dr Damir Janigro, senior author and molecular medicine researcher at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, said: “It appears that autoimmunity against brain proteins may be one of the initial steps in the progression towards posttraumatic cognitive decline.”

Epilepsy affects more than 600,000 people in the UK. Although seizures are the most common symptom of the disease, many patients also experience various other cognitive impairments, which require careful management.

Posted by Bob Jones

News Updates

Sign up for Research updates

News categories