Neural stem cells have been found in epileptic brain cells — outside the regions of the brain where they normally stay. In a group of patients who underwent surgery for epilepsy, over half had stem cells where healthy people do not have them, according to a study from Sahlgrenska Academy.

“We have confirmed what previously studies indicated, and gained new knowledge about molecular features of these neural stem cells, ” says Milos Pekny, professor at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology.

Neural stem cells with the ability to form new neurons in the brain are normally present in the hippocampus (the portion of the brain connected to learning and memory) and in the subventricular zone of the brain. However , in 8 of fourteen patients in the study, neural stem cells were existing outside these regions, namely in the epileptic brain tissues that was surgically removed.

Over 50 procedures of this kind are conducted in Sweden each year, which about 20 in Gothenburg, with most patients getting seizure-free or having significant reduction in seizure frequency. Right after an extensive investigation aiming at the precise localization of the epileptic concentrate, brain tissue that is damaged due to malformation, injury or even other cause, is surgically removed.

Good teamwork

Surgeons, neurologists plus neuroscientists worked side by side in the current study, which followed honest approval and informed consent from each patient. To get research purposes, the team was allowed to examine a little part of the removed tissue used for histopathological examination — within the operating room and in the research laboratory, just several a few minutes after removal.

“About 60% of the sufferers had epileptic tissue that contained neural stem cellular material that could be converted into neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes (the 3 types of brain cells that neural stem cells may differentiate into) when they were later grown in the lab, ” says Milos Pekny.

“This might point to a greater plasticity in the epileptic tissue, which to some degree can be compared to the brain tissue of a newborn, ” proceeds Milos Pekny.

Scientists have gained a much better molecular understanding of the region of the brain in individuals with epilepsy which — due to a developmental abnormality, trauma, stroke, or even a growing tumor — has stopped responding to control indicators, and this results in recurrent seizures.

Enhanced understanding

“The knowledge gained within this study primarily helps to improve our understanding of the brain reactions in epilepsy, ” outlines Milos Pekny.

Scientists have long speculated that astrocytes, the cellular type that controls many neuronal functions, give rise to nerve organs stem cells in damaged brain tissue.

“Our study suggest that this is not the case, at least in epilepsy, and it contributes the advancement of our understanding of what can take place in the brain in people with epilepsy, ” says Milos Pekny.

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Materials provided by University of Gothenburg . Take note: Content may be edited for style and length.