Scientists have discovered a pattern of molecules that appear in the blood before seizures, which may lead to the development of an early warning system for epilepsy patients. FutureNeuro and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) researchers have discovered molecules in the blood that are higher in people with epilepsy before a seizure happens. These molecules are fragments of transfer RNAs (tRNAs), a chemical closely related to DNA that performs an important role in building proteins within the cell. As per researchers involved in this study, which was published in the 'Journal of Clinical Investigation', tRNAs are cut into fragments when cells are stressed. Higher levels of the fragments in the blood could reflect that brain cells are under stress in the build-up to a seizure event. Using blood samples from people with epilepsy at the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin and in a similar specialist centre in Marburg, Germany, the group found that fragment levels of three tRNAs "spike" in the blood many hours before a seizure.
Dr Marion Hogg, FutureNeuro investigator, and the study's lead author, said:
"People with epilepsy often report that one of the most difficult aspects of living with the disease is never knowing when a seizure will occur.The results of this study are very promising. We hope that our tRNA research will be a key first step toward developing an early warning system."
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy. Approximately 40,000 people in Ireland have epilepsy and one third of those do not respond to current treatments, meaning they continue to experience seizures.
Professor David Henshall, Director of FutureNeuro and a co-author on the paper, said;
"Building on this research we in FutureNeuro hope to develop a test prototype, similar to a blood sugar monitor that can potentially predict when a seizure might occur. New technologies to remove the unpredictability of uncontrolled seizures for people with epilepsy are a very real possibility."
It is estimated that there may be about 12 million people with epilepsy in India, making it to almost one sixth of the global burden. Around 14 people per 1,000 populations are prone to suffer from epilepsy in India with higher estimates in children and young adults, and in rural areas. While 60% of people in urban India consult a doctor after suffering a seizure, only 10% in rural India would do so. Nearly 95% of the people with active epilepsy do not receive appropriate treatment for their condition, leading to large treatment gap. The lack of knowledge of anti-epileptic drugs, poverty, cultural beliefs, stigma, poor health infrastructure, and shortage of trained professionals contribute to the treatment gap.