By:By Will Doss
Irregular concentrations of T-cells in the brain contribute to the development of seizures in pediatric epilepsy, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
The experiments suggest anti-inflammatory drugs should be considered for therapy, in addition to the anti-seizure drugs that are typically prescribed, according to Stephen D. Miller, PhD, the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology and the senior author of the study.
“The initiation of epilepsy may not be immune-related, but the changes that are happening in the brain may lead to inflammatory responses that perpetuate the disease,” said Miller, also the director of the Interdepartmental Immunobiology Center and a professor of Dermatology.
Pediatric epilepsy affects about 6 in 1,000 children, some of whom suffer hundreds of seizures a month. The standard therapy is a regimen of anti-seizure drugs, but up to one-third of children with pediatric epilepsy don’t respond to the medications, according to Miller.
Beyond anti-seizure medication, treatment options are considerably more limited: the remaining alternatives include an implanted device that sends electrical signals to nerves, a specialized high-fat, low-carb diet, or surgery to remove the part of the brain that causes the seizures.
In a bid to find a less-invasive therapy, Miller and his colleagues analyzed neural tissue samples from patients after surgery, measuring the amount and variety of cells including T-cells, B-cells, macrophages, microglia and neurons.
To their surprise, they found extensive infiltration of inflammatory immune cells that had traveled from the bloodstream into the brain. One type of cell, the gamma-delta T-cell, was especially prevalent. It normally makes up less than five percent of T-cells in the bloodstream, but the investigators found it at proportions of as high as 65 percent in these brain samples.