what's the buzz

what's the buzz

Promising path to prevent epilepsy

Scientists have identified a new drug target - a receptor in the nervous system - that may be key to prevent the onset of epilepsy after a prolonged period of seizures.

 Epilepsy is a serious neurological disorder marked by recurring seizures. Temporal lobe epilepsy – where seizures occur in the region of the brain where memories are stored and language, emotions and senses are processed – is the most common form, and can be devastating. Because afflicted individuals have seizures that impair their awareness and may have associated behavioral problems, they may have difficulty with everyday activities, including holding a job or obtaining a driver’s license.

 Conventional therapies to treat epilepsy address the disease’s symptoms by trying to reduce the likelihood of having a seizure. However, many people with temporal lobe epilepsy still have seizures despite taking these drugs.

 Retrospective studies of people with severe temporal lobe epilepsy reveal that many of them initially have an episode of prolonged seizures, known as status epilepticus. Status epilepticus is often followed by a period of seizure-free recovery before people start to experience recurring temporal lobe seizures.

 In animal studies, inducing status epilepticus in an otherwise healthy animal can cause them to become epileptic. The prolonged seizures in status epilepticus are therefore thought to cause or importantly contribute to the development of epilepsy in humans.
 “An important goal of this field has been to identify the molecular mechanism by which status epilepticus transforms a brain from normal to epileptic,” said study author James O. McNamara, M.D., professor of neurobiology at Duke Medicine.

Sugar solution turns tissues transparent in three days

 Japanese researchers have developed a sugar-water solution that can turn tissues transparent in just three days, without affecting the tissue's shape or structure. Combined with fluorescence microscopy, this technique enabled researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental biology to obtain detailed images of a mouse brain at an unprecedented resolution.

 Over the past few years, teams in the USA and Japan have reported a number of techniques to make biological samples transparent, that have enabled researchers to look deep down into biological structures like the brain.

 "However, these clearing techniques have limitations because they induce chemical and morphological damage to the sample and require time-consuming procedures," explains Dr. Takeshi Imai, who led the study.

 SeeDB, an aqueous fructose solution that Dr. Imai developed with colleagues Drs. Meng-Tsen Ke and Satoshi Fujimoto, overcomes these limitations.  Using SeeDB, the researchers were able to make mouse embryos and brains transparent in just three days, without damaging the fine structures of the samples, or the fluorescent dyes they had injected in them.  They could then visualise the neuronal circuitry inside a mouse brain, at the whole-brain scale, under a customised fluorescence microscope without making mechanical sections through the brain.  

Artificial pancreas to supply insulin to diabetics

Doctors have reported a major medical breakthrough in the development of ‘artificial pancreas,’ a device, which will constantly monitor blood sugar in diabetics and also automatically supply insulin as needed.  A key part of such a system - an insulin pump that is programmed to shut down if blood-sugar level drops down dangerously while people are asleep - worked as it was intended in a three-month study of 247 patients suffering from Type 1 diabetes, Fox News reported.

The ‘smart pump’ that has been developed by Minneapolis-based Medtronic Inc., is already being sold in Europe, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing it now.  Dr. Richard Bergenstal, diabetes chief at Park Nicollet, a large clinic in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, who led the company-sponsored study, said that this is the first step in the development of the artificial pancreas.  In the study, patients were given sensors, which continuously monitored their blood sugar. 50 percent of them were given ordinary insulin pumps and the others given pumps that were programmed to stop insulin supply for two hours when blood-sugar fell low.

 Over 3 months, 33 percent people using the pump with the shut-off feature saw a reduction in low-sugar episodes.