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Concept: Epilepsy

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In mammals, odorants are detected by a large family of receptors that are each expressed in just a small subset of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs). Here we describe a strain of transgenic mice engineered to express an octanal receptor in almost all OSNs. Remarkably, octanal triggered a striking and involuntary phenotype in these animals, with passive exposure regularly inducing seizures. Octanal exposure invariably resulted in widespread activation of OSNs but interestingly seizures only occurred in 30-40% of trials. We hypothesized that this reflects the need for the olfactory system to filter strong but slowly-changing backgrounds from salient signals. Therefore we used an olfactometer to control octanal delivery and demonstrated suppression of responses whenever this odorant is delivered slowly. By contrast, rapid exposure of the mice to octanal induced seizure in every trial. Our results expose new details of olfactory processing and provide a robust and non-invasive platform for studying epilepsy.

Concepts: Sensory system, Olfactory receptor neuron, Olfaction, Epilepsy, Olfactory receptor, Seizure, Odor, Sensory neuron

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Neural stimulation can reduce the frequency of seizures in persons with epilepsy, but rates of seizure-free outcome are low. Vagus nerve stimulation prevents seizures by continuously activating noradrenergic projections from the brainstem to the cortex. Cortical norepinephrine then increases GABAergic transmission and increases seizure threshold. Another approach, responsive nervous stimulation, prevents seizures by reactively shocking the seizure onset zone in precise synchrony with seizure onset. The electrical shocks abort seizures before they can spread and manifest clinically. The goal of this study was to determine whether a hybrid platform in which brainstem activation triggered in response to impending seizure activity could prevent seizures. We chose the zebrafish as a model organism for this study because of its ability to recapitulate human disease, in conjunction with its innate capacity for tightly controlled high-throughput experimentation. We first set out to determine whether electrical stimulation of the zebrafish hindbrain could have an anticonvulsant effect. We found that pulse train electrical stimulation of the hindbrain significantly increased the latency to onset of pentylenetetrazole-induced seizures, and that this apparent anticonvulsant effect was blocked by noradrenergic antagonists, as is also the case with rodents and humans. We also found that the anticonvulsant effect of hindbrain stimulation could be potentiated by reactive triggering of single pulse electrical stimulations in response to impending seizure activity. Finally, we found that the rate of stimulation triggering was directly proportional to pentylenetetrazole concentration and that the stimulation rate was reduced by the anticonvulsant valproic acid and by larger stimulation currents. Taken as a whole, these results show that that the anticonvulsant effect of brainstem activation can be efficiently utilized by reactive triggering, which suggests that alternative stimulation paradigms for vagus nerve stimulation might be useful. Moreover, our results show that the zebrafish epilepsy model can be used to advance our understanding of neural stimulation in the treatment of epilepsy.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neurology, Cranial nerves, Epilepsy, Vagus nerve stimulation, Anticonvulsant, Seizure, Status epilepticus

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Genetic generalized epilepsies (GGEs) have a lifetime prevalence of 0.3% and account for 20-30% of all epilepsies. Despite their high heritability of 80%, the genetic factors predisposing to GGEs remain elusive. To identify susceptibility variants shared across common GGE syndromes, we carried out a two-stage genome-wide association study (GWAS) including 3020 patients with GGEs and 3954 controls of European ancestry. To dissect out syndrome-related variants, we also explored two distinct GGE subgroups comprising 1434 patients with genetic absence epilepsies (GAEs) and 1134 patients with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME). Joint Stage-1 and 2 analyses revealed genome-wide significant associations for GGEs at 2p16.1 (rs13026414, P(meta) = 2.5 × 10(-9), OR[T] = 0.81) and 17q21.32 (rs72823592, P(meta) = 9.3 × 10(-9), OR[A] = 0.77). The search for syndrome-related susceptibility alleles identified significant associations for GAEs at 2q22.3 (rs10496964, P(meta) = 9.1 × 10(-9), OR[T] = 0.68) and at 1q43 for JME (rs12059546, P(meta) = 4.1 × 10(-8), OR[G] = 1.42). Suggestive evidence for an association with GGEs was found in the region 2q24.3 (rs11890028, P(meta) = 4.0 × 10(-6)) nearby the SCN1A gene, which is currently the gene with the largest number of known epilepsy-related mutations. The associated regions harbor high-ranking candidate genes: CHRM3 at 1q43, VRK2 at 2p16.1, ZEB2 at 2q22.3, SCN1A at 2q24.3 and PNPO at 17q21.32. Further replication efforts are necessary to elucidate whether these positional candidate genes contribute to the heritability of the common GGE syndromes.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Allele, Genome-wide association study, Epilepsy, Myoclonus, Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy

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To evaluate the risk of severe cutaneous adverse drug reactions (SCAR) after exposure to multi-indication antiepileptic drugs for in Korean elderly patients.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Illness, Epilepsy, Adverse drug reaction, Anticonvulsant, Benzodiazepine, Carbamazepine, Primidone

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The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has increased 20-fold over the past 50 years to >1% of US children. Although twin studies attest to a high degree of heritability, the genetic risk factors are still poorly understood. We analyzed data from two independent populations using u-statistics for genetically structured wide-locus data and added data from unrelated controls to explore epistasis. To account for systematic, but disease-unrelated differences in (non-randomized) genome-wide association studies (GWAS), a correlation between P-values and minor allele frequency with low granularity data and for conducting multiple tests in overlapping genetic regions, we present a novel study-specific criterion for ‘genome-wide significance’. From recent results in a comorbid disease, childhood absence epilepsy, we had hypothesized that axonal guidance and calcium signaling are involved in autism as well. Enrichment of the results in both studies with related genes confirms this hypothesis. Additional ASD-specific variations identified in this study suggest protracted growth factor signaling as causing more severe forms of ASD. Another cluster of related genes suggests chloride and potassium ion channels as additional ASD-specific drug targets. The involvement of growth factors suggests the time of accelerated neuronal growth and pruning at 9-24 months of age as the period during which treatment with ion channel modulators would be most effective in preventing progression to more severe forms of autism. By extension, the same computational biostatistics approach could yield profound insights into the etiology of many common diseases from the genetic data collected over the last decade.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Signal transduction, Action potential, Epilepsy, Absence seizure, Potassium channel, Neurological disorders

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Medically refractory epilepsy continues to be a challenge worldwide, and despite an increasing number of medical therapies, approximately 1 in 3 patients continues to have seizures. Cannabidiol (CBD), one of many constituents of the Cannabis sativa or marijuana plant, has received renewed interest in the treatment of epilepsy. While highly purified CBD awaits Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, artisanal formulations of CBD are readily available and are seeing increased use in our patient population. Although randomized controlled trials of CBD are ongoing and promising, data regarding artisanal formulations of CBD are minimal and largely anecdotal. Here, we report a retrospective study to define the efficacy of artisanal CBD preparations in children with epilepsy. Given the known interaction between CBD and clobazam, we also conducted a subgroup comparison to determine if clobazam use was related to any beneficial effects of CBD. Additionally, we compared response rates with CBD and with clobazam alone within an overlapping patient cohort. A pediatric cohort with epilepsy of 108 patients was identified through a medical record search for patients using CBD oil. The addition of CBD resulted in 39% of patients having a >50% reduction in seizures, with 10% becoming seizure-free. The responder rate for clobazam was similar. No patients achieved CBD monotherapy, although the weaning of other antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) became possible in 22% of patients. A comparable proportion had AED additions during CBD therapy. With concomitant use of clobazam, 44% of patients had a 50% reduction in seizures upon addition of CBD compared with 33% in the population not taking clobazam; this difference was not statistically significant. The most common reported side effect of CBD was sedation in less than 4% of patients, all of whom were also taking clobazam. Increased alertness and improved verbal interactions were reported in 14% of patients in the CBD group and 8% of patients in the CBD and clobazam group. Benefits were more marked in the CBD alone group, in contrast to the CBD and clobazam group, but this difference was not statistically significant. In summary, these findings support efficacy of artisanal CBD preparations in seizure reduction with few significant side effects. The response to CBD was independent of concurrent clobazam use, although clobazam may contribute to the sedation seen with concurrent CBD use.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicine, Randomized controlled trial, Epilepsy, Anticonvulsant, Seizure, Cannabis, Myoclonus

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The relationship between monogenic and polygenic forms of epilepsy is poorly understood and the extent to which the genetic and acquired epilepsies share common pathways is unclear. Here, we use an integrated systems-level analysis of brain gene expression data to identify molecular networks disrupted in epilepsy.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Epilepsy, Anticonvulsant, Diazepam

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Epilepsy is defined by the seemingly random occurrence of spontaneous seizures. The ability to anticipate seizures would enable preventative treatment strategies. A central but unresolved question concerns the relationship of seizure timing to fluctuating rates of interictal epileptiform discharges (here termed interictal epileptiform activity, IEA), a marker of brain irritability observed between seizures by electroencephalography (EEG). Here, in 37 subjects with an implanted brain stimulation device that detects IEA and seizures over years, we find that IEA oscillates with circadian and subject-specific multidien (multi-day) periods. Multidien periodicities, most commonly 20-30 days in duration, are robust and relatively stable for up to 10 years in men and women. We show that seizures occur preferentially during the rising phase of multidien IEA rhythms. Combining phase information from circadian and multidien IEA rhythms provides a novel biomarker for determining relative seizure risk with a large effect size in most subjects.

Concepts: Neurology, Electroencephalography, Epilepsy, Effect size, Seizure, Myoclonus

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Temporal lobe epilepsy or limbic epilepsy lacks effective therapies due to a void in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that set in motion aberrant neuronal network formations during the course of limbic epileptogenesis (LE). Here we show in in vivo rodent models of LE that the phospholipid mediator platelet-activating factor (PAF) increases in LE and that PAF receptor (PAF-r) ablation mitigates its progression. Synthetic PAF-r antagonists, when administered intraperitoneally in LE, re-establish hippocampal dendritic spine density and prevent formation of dysmorphic dendritic spines. Concomitantly, hippocampal interictal spikes, aberrant oscillations, and neuronal hyper-excitability, evaluated 15-16 weeks after LE using multi-array silicon probe electrodes implanted in the dorsal hippocampus, are reduced in PAF-r antagonist-treated mice. We suggest that over-activation of PAF-r signaling induces aberrant neuronal plasticity in LE and leads to chronic dysfunctional neuronal circuitry that mediates epilepsy.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Temporal lobe, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Epilepsy, Temporal lobe epilepsy, Hippocampal sclerosis, Dendritic spine