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Cardiff Uni investigates new treatment for temporal lobe epilepsy

  • Researchers at Cardiff University receive funding for a vital pilot research
  • Project will explore whether its possible to treat temporal lobe epilepsy by transplanting immature neuron cells into the brain.

The aim is to repair damaged cells, which is hoped to reduce the number of seizures. The study has already seen promising results, with almost a 90% reduction in seizures when experimented on specially bred mice. Further investigation will take place to explore the cell transplantation treatment using 3D cultures of human epilepsy brain tissue. This exciting research could allow this innovative treatment to reach human clinical trials in the next couple of years.

The team is further exploring the cell transplantation treatment by using 3D cultures of human epileptic brain tissue that has been removed during epilepsy surgery. After adding human stem cells to these cultures the team has found that, although many stem cells die, some do survive and show the early signs of maturing into interneurons. These cultures will be used to understand and determine what allows the transplanted cells to survive and develop.

Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is the most common type of epilepsy to cause focal seizures. Our temporal lobes are responsible for language, feelings, emotions and memory, all of which can be affected when someone experiences a seizure in this area of their brain. One of the first signs of TLE is a loss or dysfunction of interneurons. Interneurons are the relay system for messages between brain cells – neurons. If these don’t work properly or are lost, then the messaging in the brain is affected and signals don’t get through or are mixed up. In TLE, these changes are most commonly found in the hippocampus, an area of the temporal lobes which is associated with spatial navigation and converting short-term memories to long-term memories. This research aims to repair these messaging pathways by replacing these lost or damaged interneurons with new ones formed by stem cells.

The critical challenge for this work is understanding how to work with someone’s natural immune system. The animals used in these studies did not have active immune systems, which was integral to making sure they did not reject the transplanted cells. When humans have TLE, the hippocampus is very inflamed. This indicates that the immune system is particularly active in this area and tackling this by long-term suppression of someone’s immune system is not a feasible option. The experiment is a long way away from being able to say that this is yet going to help people with TLE, but this research aims to explore and advise on just how realistic it is and the best way to make it happen.

Principal Investigator for the project, Cardiff University's Professor Liam Gray, said:

This exciting project will give significant insights into the feasibility of cell transplantation for treating seizures and cognitive problems in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy.

If the transplantation of neuron cells is to become a realistic treatment for TLE, researchers must understand what signals are exchanged between the inflamed hippocampus and transplanted cells in humans, and how this will affect the survival, development and integration of the new interneurons. Only with this knowledge will they be able to provide an optimal environment for transplanted cells and the best chance of success.

Take a look at the Research Young Epilepsy is currently involved in

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Cyber EssentialsFundraising RegulatorYoung Epilepsy is the operating name of The National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy (NCYPE).
Registered Charity number 311877 (England and Wales)

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