Indian-origin scientist paves way for improved epilepsy treatments

Zee Media Bureau

Toronto: Researchers at the University of Toronto, including one of Indian-origin, have now discovered a complex network of proteins that could help in the treatment of neurological disorders such as epilepsy, autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia.

“Our study pertains to the discovery of the ying-yang for neuronal cross-talk that is essential for normal healthy brain function,” Chennai born Vivek Mahadevan, a Ph.D student at the University of Toronto in Canada, was quoted as saying to IANS.

Neurons in the brain communicate with other neurons through synapses, communication that can either excite or inhibit other neuron.

According to lead investigator of the study, professor Melanie Woodin, “an imbalance among the levels of excitation and inhibition - a tip towards excitation, for example, causes improper brain function and can produce seizures.” 

“We identified a key complex of proteins that can regulate excitation-inhibition balance at the cellular level,” Woodin added.

This complex brings together three key proteins - KCC2, Neto2 and GluK2 - required for inhibitory and excitatory synaptic communication.

KCC2 is required for inhibitory impulses, GluK2 is a receptor for the main excitatory transmitter glutamate, and Neto2 is an auxiliary protein that interacts with both KCC2 and GluK2.

The discovery of the complex of three proteins is path breaking as it was previously believed that KCC2 and GluK2 were in separate compartments of the cell and acted independently of each other.

“Finding that they are all directly interacting and can co-regulate each other's function reveals for the first time a system that can mediate excitation-inhibition balance among neurons themselves,” Mahadevan added.

As there is no cure for epilepsy and the treatments which are available can only curb its effects such as convulsions and seizures, the main focus should be on its prevention.

Mahadevan, along with other biologists carried out the study on mice brain via biochemistry, fluorescence imaging and electrophysiology experiments.

The findings appeared in the journal Cell Reports.