UCL Institute of Child Health researchers have published a study that identifies a group of abnormal stem cells that contribute to severe epilepsy in children. This work is the first to isolate a non-malignant group of abnormal stem cells with a link to causing brain disease.
The disease, focal cortical dysplasia, causes a highly debilitating type of childhood epilepsy and is characterised by structures called balloon cells. The research, by Dr Shireena Yasin and colleagues, indicates a series of abnormal stem cells might play a role in forming these balloon structures.
The team, in collaboration with colleague at the UCL Institute of Neurology, have previously identified specific subpopulations of stem cells whose errant growth triggers the formation of malignant brain tumours (see http://www.ich.ucl.ac.uk/pressoffice/pressrelease_00803).
By looking for similar abnormal growth patterns in samples of tissue taken from children undergoing treatment for focal cortical dysplasia at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the team identified and characterised a series of non-malignant stem cells.
“Given the lack of reliable disease models for studying such severe forms of epilepsy, identifying the role these stem cells play could really help to drive further discoveries in this area,” says Dr Thomas Jacques, Consultant Neuropathologist, who leads the research group. “The molecular technologies we’re harnessing to detect these different types of disease-causing cells means we’re constantly gaining new insights. Ultimately, I hope this work will allow us get closer to the goal of directing treatments to specific patients, based on a unique understanding of the mechanisms of how their disease arises.”
This work has been funded by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and the Pathological Society of Great Britain.
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