Do antibodies in the brain trigger epilepsy?
Certain forms of epilepsy are accompanied by inflammation of imported brain regions, research conducted by the University of Bonn, published in the Annals of Neurology, has identified a mechanism that would explain this link, paving the way for new therapeutic approaches (Crespel et al. , 2002).
Advertising message Epilepsy can be hereditary. In other cases, patients develop the disease only later in life: following a brain injury, after a stroke or tumor. Inflammation of the meninges or the brain itself can also cause epilepsy (Crespel et al., 2002).
Particularly dangerous are the inflammatory reactions that affect the hippocampus, which is a brain structure that plays an important role in memory processes and the development of emotions. Doctors call this condition limbic encephalitis, however, in many cases it is not yet clear what causes this inflammation (Crespel et al., 2002).
Researchers have now identified an autoantibody that is believed to be responsible for encephalitis in some patients. Unlike normal antibodies, it is not directed against molecules that entered the body from the outside, but against the structures of the body. The antibody has been found in the spinal fluid of epilepsy patients suffering from acute hippocampal inflammation. Researchers have found a problem with this antibody: this is directed against the Drebrin protein, which ensures that the contact points between the nerve cells (synapses) are working properly (Pitsch et al., 2020).
When the autoantibody encounters a Drebrin molecule, it puts it out of order and therefore stops the transmission of information between nerve cells. At the same time it warns the immune system, which is then activated and goes into an inflammatory mode, producing even more autoantibodies. However, the Drebrin protein is located inside the synapses, while the antibody is in the tissue fluid, so normally they should never come into contact with each other. It would appear that the antibody manages to enter the neuronal cell as a neurotransmitter (Pitsch et al., 2020).
Advertising message In cell culture experiments, researchers were able to show what happens after the contact between the two molecules: shortly after adding the antibody, neurons in the Petri dish begin to fire rapid explosions similar to pulse machine guns. electric. This form of electrical excitation is contagious, the nerve cells, which are interconnected to form a network, suddenly begin to discharge electricity simultaneously, all of which can be translated into two words: epileptic seizure (Pitsch et al., 2020).
The results, as mentioned above, give hope for new therapeutic approaches. For example, active substances such as cortisone can suppress the immune system and thus also prevent massive antibody production. In the future, it may also be possible to intercept and inhibit them specifically with certain drugs. However, there is still a long way to go before treatments become available; It is important to specify that this approach to the disease would primarily benefit patients with inflammatory epilepsy. So, unlike congenital epilepsies, those based on inflammation may be close to a therapeutic breakthrough (Pitsch et al., 2020).