New Study Focusing On Link Between Epilepsy And CLOCK Protein

Black arrows show the brain region responsible for producing seizures in a patient involved in a new study showing that loss of the protein CLOCK may be a key factor in severe forms of focal epilepsy.
Liu et. al.

A new study shows a possible link between epilepsy and lack of a protein called “CLOCK.”  CLOCK stands for “Circadian Locomotor Output Cycles Kaput.”  It is the central regulator of gene expression related to the body’s circadian rhythm of sleeping and waking.  A group of researchers, including Dr. Judy Liu an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Brown University, stumbled upon the possible link between epilepsy and the protein.

Dr. Liu, who is also an investigator at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C., decided to study brain tissue removed from patients who required surgery as a treatment for epilepsy.  She studied tissue from eight patients with focal cortical dysplasia or tuberous sclerosis complex.

Dr. Liu wasn’t looking at the CLOCK protein specifically, but noticed a pattern that made her take a closer look. Tissue samples were then taken from another group of epilepsy surgery patients who had different forms of the condition.  The results showed that the CLOCK protein was low in many of those patients as well.

Researchers can not explain why a disruption of the CLOCK protein causes seizures.

“That’s a great mystery at this point. It could be because the inhibitory synapses are affected, and there is some evidence that’s the case, but also the activity of a certain subset of inhibitory neurons could be altered.”

Dr Liu and other researchers are using the results of this and future studies to target medications and delivery methods to ensure more focused and effective treatments.

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