Docs to use new method to study epilepsy at cellular level

AIIMS and National Brain Research Centre to collaborate to identify cause of disease at molecular level.

What triggers the electrical process in the cells of the brain that lead to epilepsy? AIIMS is starting a joint project with the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) in Manesar, to identify the cause of epilepsy at a cellular-level.

For what is understood to be a first for the country, doctors will be inserting electrodes inside brain cells neurons in the brain samples taken from patients who undergo surgery for epilepsy. These electrodes will measure energy levels in abnormal cells and compare them with regular cells.

Dr P Sarat Chandra, senior neurosurgeon at AIIMS and the principal investigator for the project, said: "Epilepsy is a result of hundreds of brain cells producing abnormally high levels of electricity, which results in different manifestations. For the first time, we are trying to understand the neurobiology of the disease scientifically termed as a systems biology approach to help understand the cellular and molecular reasons for epilepsy. This is a very exciting initiative for us, as it may change way in which the disease has been understood and treated so far."

The procedure of inserting electrodes into neurons and measuring the voltage from inside the cell, is an advanced technique known as cellular electrophysiology.

Also helping him is Dr Jyotirmoy Banerjee, who has recently joined AIIMS from the National Institute of Health, School of Medicine, University of Maryland, USA.

He said, "We plan to do this by recording synaptic currents from the slices obtained from dissected brain specimens at the time of surgery. These are the currents generated when the signals are transmitted from one neuron to another, which becomes abnormally high in a patient with epilepsy."

A laboratory, Centre for Excellence in Epilepsy, is under construction at the institute. Here, an advanced diagnostic machine, which detects epilepsy on the basis of functional changes rather than existing structural changes, will be set up with support from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

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