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AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 1, 2018

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Fralin Biomedical Research Institute scientists link concussions to seizures, development of epilepsy

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Altered astrocytes may be the heart of epilepsy development

Researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC have identified a cellular response in mice to mild traumatic brain injuries that may lead to seizures.

Traumatic brain injury is a leading cause of epilepsy, which is characterized as the repeated occurrence of seizures. No treatments currently interrupt the process that the brain undergoes after injury that can eventually lead to the chronic condition of epilepsy. 

The study suggests that the development of epilepsy triggered by mild traumatic brain injury may be related to an atypical response from brain cells known as astrocytes, which change to form scars after a severe brain injury. This process is important to protect uninjured brain areas but comes at a price, because these scars have been associated with epilepsy.

The scientists found that astrocytes do not form scars after mild traumatic brain injury, but some astrocytes are altered in a different way almost immediately by these less severe types of injuries. Then, weeks later, the scientists observed spontaneous, recurrent seizures in some mice.

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