New Irish research could help predict seizures before they happen

A new study led by FutureNeuro at RCSI has found a pattern of molecules that appear in the blood before a seizure happens. The researchers say that the discovery may lead to the development of an early warning system, which would enable people with epilepsy to know when they are at risk of having a seizure.

The molecules identified by the team are fragments of transfer RNAs (tRNA’s), a chemical closely related to DNA that performs an important role in building proteins within the cell. When cells are stressed, tRNAs are cut into fragments. Higher levels of the fragments in the blood could reflect that brain cells are under stress in the build up to a seizure.

Using blood samples from people with epilepsy at the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin and in a similar specialist centre in Marburg, Germany, the group found that fragment levels of three tRNAs "spike" in the blood many hours before a seizure.

The study’s lead author, Dr Marion Hogg (pictured) said:
People with epilepsy often report that one of the most difficult aspects of living with the disease is never knowing when a seizure will occur. The results of this study are very promising. We hope that our tRNA research will be a key first step toward developing an early warning system.”

Professor David Henshall, Director of FutureNeuro, added:
“New technologies to remove the unpredictability of uncontrolled seizures for people with epilepsy are a very real possibility. Building on this research we in FutureNeuro hope to develop a test prototype, similar to a blood sugar monitor that can potentially predict when a seizure might occur.”

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI).

Funders of this study include Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the European Regional Development Fund, FutureNeuro industry partners and the European Union’s ‘Seventh Framework’ Programme FP7 (EpimiRNA).

See also:
Irish Times, 10th June 2019

RCSI Video outlining the study