The research may open the way to treating various forms of acquired epilepsy and attacks that occur as a result of brain lesions caused by trauma, infections, or tumors in the brain.
Since 1893, scientists have known about mysterious structures called the perineuronal networks wrapped around neurons, but the function of these networks has remained unknown. However, a group of scientists from the University of Virginia led by Harald Sontheimer (Harald Sontheimer) found that these networks modulate electrical impulses in the brain. Moreover, they have discovered that attacks can occur in the event of a breakdown of networks. Results of work published in Nature Communications.
Initially, researchers found this in mice suffering from epilepsy caused by fatal brain cancer, glioblastoma, the first symptom of which is often a convulsion. Glioblastoma is the only cancer that is limited in the universe. Because the skull blocks the cancer from spreading outside, the tumor creates an excitatory chemical neurotransmitter (glutamate), which kills neighboring healthy cells to make room for growth.
In addition to glutamate, the tumor secretes the enzyme to destroy the surrounding extracellular matrix – a similar substance that holds the brain cells in place. Glioblastomas are very malignant and are known to spread in the body. Secret enzyme is a type of knife that reduces the cancer cells, allowing them to move freely.
To their surprise, scientists also noted that the enzyme attacks of the perineuronal network wound around GABA-inhibiting neurons (Gamma-aminobutiric acid), which help prevent the attack.
The Italian neurosurgeon Camillo Golgi (Camillo Golgi) first discovered the perineuronal network in 1893, but then misunderstood their function. Golgi called the Corset Network and said that they most likely prevented the exchange of messages between the neurons. Sontheimer's study refuses it. On the contrary, the scientist discovered that networks support messaging. Neurons covered with perineuronal nets have a lower membrane capacity and the ability to store electrical charges, which means they can trigger the pulse and complement it up to twice as fast as non-neuronal neurons.
When they suddenly lose their perineural networks, the results can be catastrophic: by using this enzyme in the brain without tumors, scientists have seen that the most intimate degradation of the networks of the perineuronal networks is sufficient to cause attacks-even when the neurons remain intact.
Now the researcher's attention is focused on the role that perineural networks can play in other forms of acquired epilepsy – for example, as a result of head injury or brain infection – which will lead to the creation of an effective drug.
"We have resolved the 125-year secret of neurology! It's a basic science to keep an open and clever mind and answer old and new questions," says Sontheimer.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 50 million people worldwide suffer epilepsy, of which one third is not subject to known anti-epileptic procedures.
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