The molecule putrescine present in the brain an epileptic seizure actually protect against them hours later, a new Brown University study has found.
The scientists have found that putrescine ultimately converts into the neurotransmitter GABA, which is known to calm brain activity.
When they caused a seizure in the tadpoles, they found that the putrescine produced in a first wave of seizures helped tadpoles hold out longer against a second wave of induced seizures.
Carlos Aizenman, senior author of a study, said further research could ultimately produce a drug that targets the process, potentially helping young children with epilepsy.
"Overall, the findings presented in this study may have important therapeutic implications. We describe a novel role for polyamine metabolism that results in a protective effect on seizures induced in developing animals," wrote the authors.
For the study, first they hindered polyamine synthesis altogether and found that not only did the protection against seizures disappear, but it also left the tadpoles even more vulnerable to seizures.
Then they interrupted the conversion of putrescine into other polyamines and found that this step enhanced the protection, indicating that putrescine was the beneficial member of the family.
Going with those results, they administered putrescine directly to the tadpoles and found that it took 65 percent longer to induce a seizure than in tadpoles that didn't get a dose of putrescine.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.