Epilepsy research is expanding to include correcting or reversing alterations in neural function at the root of the disorder, rather than just addressing its symptoms.
In research reported at the 64th American Epilepsy Society (AES) Annual Meeting, investigators at the University of Florida have demonstrated that adult human neuronal progenitor cells (AHNPs) generate functional neurons that integrate into host neuronal networks in the cerebral cortex.
The research team, led by Dr. Steven Roper, the Edward Shedd Wells Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Florida, obtained neuronal progenitors from brain tissue removed in the surgical treatment of a 13-year-old female with temporal lobe epilepsy. The progenitors were then transplanted into the neocortex of newborn experimental animals where they were allowed to develop. The electrical function of the AHNP-derived (human) neurons was then recorded 17 - 21 days after transplantation and compared to host (animal) neurons in the same tissue layer. (Abstract 3.013)
There was no significant difference in the firing properties, spontaneous excitatory and inhibitory currents of the AHNP-derived neurons compared to the neighboring host neurons.
"Our results suggest that ANHP-derived neurons are able to generate functional neurons that integrate into host neuronal networks," the researchers report. "This provides promising data on the potential of AHNPs to serve as an effective treatment in epilepsy and other disorders with altered neuronal circuitry."
This research was supported by a Challenge Grant Award to S. Roper from Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE). Additional studies will be needed first. to confirm these results, and then to test the potential of AHNPs in animal models of epilepsy before studies in humans can begin