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Clue to drug-resistant epilepsy

7th December 2009

Researchers have said they think they know the reason why "stubborn" epilepsy does not react to drug treatment.

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A team from Newcastle University tested brain tissue and found that certain types of fit were the result of faults in the electrical connections linking brain cells, rather than chemical problems.

The researchers said this conclusion would explain why some epileptics have to undergo surgery to treat their condition, because drugs do not work.

The study, led by Dr Mark Cunningham, appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The condition is suffered by around 45 million people around the world and around 30% of epileptics are unable to be treated with drugs.

The researchers removed brain tissue from epileptics and in a laboratory were able to make it behave in the same way it did when part of the "living" brain.

The team then recorded electrical signals from the neurons and compared it with ordinary brain tissue function.

They found that a "noise" occurred in the brains of epileptic people before they suffered a seizure, which relied on electrical connections.

Simon Wigglesworth of Epilepsy Action said: "This is exciting news for people whose epilepsy cannot be controlled by medication and an important development in our understanding of the condition."

"Currently, there is no treatment to cure epilepsy other than surgery, which at the moment is only effective for small numbers."

 

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