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Epilepsy in a Dish

Stem cell research reveals clues to disease's origins and possible treatment.

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Epilepsy in a dish: Stem cell research reveals clues to disease's origins and possible treatment

U-M-led study of neurons created from skin of patients with Dravet syndrome

A new stem cell-based approach to studying epilepsy has yielded a surprising discovery about what causes one form of the disease, and may help in the search for better medicines to treat all kinds of seizure disorders.

The findings, reported by a team of scientists from the University of Michigan Medical School and colleagues, use a technique that could be called "epilepsy in a dish".

By turning skin cells of epilepsy patients into stem cells, and then turning those stem cells into neurons, or brain nerve cells, the team created a miniature testing ground for epilepsy. They could even measure the signals that the cells were sending to one another, through tiny portals called sodium channels.

In neurons derived from the cells of children who have a severe, rare genetic form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome, the researchers report abnormally high levels of sodium current activity. They saw spontaneous bursts of communication and "hyperexcitability" that could potentially set off seizures. Neurons made from the skin cells of people without epilepsy showed none of this abnormal activity.

They report their results online in the Annals of Neurology, and have further...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

University of Michigan