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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 December 2005, 00:10 GMT
Hope over chronic epilepsy onset
Image of a brain scan
One in 20 people have seizures at some point
Using drugs to block chemical brain signals may stop epileptic seizures in children and the onset of a chronic form of the condition, a study says.

Researchers found seizures in the developing brain could be triggered by pulses of a brain chemical known as GABA impacting on nerve cells.

The French Institute of Neurobiology team said such reactions left the nerve cells prone to regular seizures.

The study on rats features in the journal Neuron.

One in 20 people will have a seizure at some point, but many will "grow out of it" by the time they reach adulthood.

This is an important study that sheds new light on the interaction between epileptic seizures and brain development
Professor John Duncan, of the National Society for Epilepsy

However, for some it develops into a more serious condition - about 450,000 in the UK have regular epilepsy seizures.

The French team looked at how seizures in early life developed into chronic epilepsy.

Analysing the brains of baby rats, they used drugs to both block GABA signals and also to prompt seizures.

They found that GABA-triggered nerve cells prompted seizures in young brains and these seizures featured so-called fast oscillations of electrical activity that are required to transform nerve cells into an "persistent epileptic state".


When they carried out experiments on adult rats, the researchers found GABA signals were also involved in seizures, but did not lead to the development of chronic epilepsy.

There are many different factors which can induce a seizure, of which GABA signals are just one. Other chemical imbalances, alcohol and fatigue can all play a role.

Report author Yehezkel Ben-Ari said the findings could help inform the development of new drugs.

"This information may be important both for understanding the consequences of seizures in newborns and for developing new therapeutic treatments for seizures in young infants."

And Professor John Duncan, medical director at the National Society for Epilepsy, said the study could potentially prove invaluable.

"This is an important study that sheds new light on the interaction between epileptic seizures and brain development, and will lead to an re-evaluation of how infants with seizures may be best treated."

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