Magazine article Science News

GABA Receptor Linked to Absence Seizures

Magazine article Science News

GABA Receptor Linked to Absence Seizures

Article excerpt

A new animal study offers hope of better treatment for so-called "absence" seizures in humans.

Also known as petit mal, this form of epilepsy occurs mainly in children and is marked by seconds-long lapses in consciousness. A child can experience up to 100 episodes a day, during which he or she may seem to stare, often blinking rapidly, or sway slightly before recovering. Frequent seizures can interfere with concentration and lead to problems in school. Fortunately, seizure frequency tends to decline with time; four-fifths of all affected children outgrow absence seizures by age 20.

New findings suggest that these seizures result from an overabundance of receptors for a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric [acid.sub.B], ([GABA.sub.B]), according to neurologist David A. Hosford and his colleagues at the Duke University Medical Center and the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Durham, N.C. They describe their work in the July 17 Science.

This study represents "a major advance ... the first step in designing new therapies" for absence seizures, says Robert J. DeLorenzo, a neurologist with the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

The anticonvulsant drugs currently used to suppress absence seizures often cause drowsiness, and can effectively treat only about 80 percent of the approximately 100,000 US. children affected by these seizures, Hosford says.

In their study, the Durham researchers determined that specially bred, epilepsy-prone mice, called lethargic mice, have seizures that closely resemble absence seizures in humans. …

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