Could Metabolism Play a Role in Epilepsy?

Researchers from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio are exploring a possible link between metabolic defects and seizures. They determined that diet could influence susceptibility to seizures, and they have identified a common diabetes drug that could be useful in treating disorders such as epilepsy.

Dr. Daniel Kuebler, the principal investigator behind the experiment, and his lab made the connection by measuring fruit fly movement with inexpensive web-cams. They have published a peer-reviewed, video demonstration of their method in JoVE, The Journal of Visualized Experiments, to assist others in reproducing and further applying the method.

“This technique has allowed us to identify a number of metabolism-altering drugs that affect seizure susceptibility,” said Dr. Kuebler, “It has opened up a new line of research looking at the effect dietary modifications have on seizure susceptibility.” As published in the article, his lab team determined that metformin, a drug commonly used to treat type II diabetes, reduces the intensity of seizures.

The drug-screening model system is especially ideal for labs on a tight budget, said Dr. Kuebler. According to the article, “Video tracking systems have been used widely to analyze Drosophila melanogaster movement and detect various abnormalities in locomotive behavior. [But] while these systems can provide a wealth of behavioral information, the cost and complexity of these systems can be prohibitive for many labs.” Unlike similar experiments, which study the behavior of these flies in aggregate, Dr. Kuebler and his team’s approach studies fly behavior one at a time. This is beneficial in that it can determine subtle differences in behavior and seizure alterations, he said.

Epilepsy has afflicted human beings since the dawn of our species and has been recognized since the earliest medical writings. We now understand that epilepsy (commonly called ‘the epilepsies’) is a group of disorders that occurs as a result of seizures that temporarily impair brain function. Epilepsy is not a ‘one size fits all problem’. It can look, feel and act differently in different people. It is much more common than previously thought and is one of the more common neurological problems affecting people of all ages.. Few medical conditions have attracted so much attention and generated so much controversy. Throughout history, people with epilepsy and their families have suffered unfairly because of the ignorance of others. Fortunately, the stigma and fear generated by the words “seizures” and “epilepsy” have decreased during the past century, and most people with epilepsy now lead normal lives.

Could Metabolism Play a Role in Epilepsy? While there is no known trigger behind seizures in people with epilepsy, Dr. Kuebler and his lab are using their drug-screening technique to investigate potential metabolic causes—using genetically modified, seizure-prone flies (a family of Drosophila flies called Bang-sensitive paralytic mutants). “It is well known that certain diets, such as the ketogenic diet, have effects on seizures, but there is little agreement on the mechanism behind this diet,” said Dr. Kuebler, “This technique allows us to better address this question.”

Some facts about epilepsy

  Epilepsy is the tendency to have recurrent seizures.
  There are around 40 different types of seizure and a person may have more than one type.
  Epilepsy can affect anyone, at any age and from any walk of life.
  In the UK, 600,000 or one in every 103 people has epilepsy.
  Epilepsy is a neurological condition.
  Every day in the UK, 87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy.
  Only 52 per cent of people with epilepsy in the UK are seizure-free. It is estimated that 70 per cent could be seizure free with the right treatment.
  Around five people in every 100 will have an epileptic seizure at some time in their life. Out of these five people, around four will go on to develop epilepsy.
  Many people who develop epilepsy below the age of 20 will ‘grow out of it’ in adult life.
  Many people with epilepsy are still discriminated against due to ignorance about the condition.
  Epilepsy is covered by the Equality Act in England, Scotland and Wales, and the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland.
  Many people with epilepsy can take part in the same activities as everyone else, with the help of simple safety measures where appropriate.
  People who have been seizure-free for a year can re-apply for their driving licence.

Dr. Kuebler chose to publish his method in a video format because of its capacity to communicate scientific procedures better than text.  “The ability to show the seizure behavior visually, [showing] exactly how the recording is done, made the journal a much more attractive option than print only journals,” said Dr. Kuebler, “This low cost system is simple enough to set up in an undergraduate teaching lab and can allow for students to do some inquiry based learning labs on a budget.”

People with epilepsy are not usually cognitively challenged.

People with epilepsy usually are not intellectually challenged. Many people mistakenly believe that people with epilepsy are also intellectually or developmentally challenged. In the large majority of situations, this is not true. Like any other group of people, people with epilepsy have different intellectual abilities. Some are brilliant and some score below average on intelligence tests, but most are somewhere in the middle. They have normal intelligence and lead productive lives. Some people, however, may have epilepsy associated with brain injuries that may cause other neurological difficulties that affects their thinking, remembering, or other cognitive abilities. The cognitive problems may be the only problem in most people. Less frequently, some people have other developmental problems that can affect the way they function and live.


About JoVE, The Journal of Visualized Experiments:

JoVE, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, is the first and only PubMed/MEDLINE-indexed, peer-reviewed journal devoted to publishing scientific research in a video format. Using an international network of videographers, JoVE films and edits videos of researchers performing new experimental techniques at top universities, allowing students and scientists to learn them much more quickly. As of February 2014, JoVE has published video-protocols from an international community of more than 9,300 authors in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry, and physics.

Rachel Greene
Marketing Director
Journal of Visualized Experiments
p. 617.250.8451
e. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Provided by ArmMed Media