Researchers Discover Pre-epilepsy Biomarker Related to Febrile Seizures

An additional biomarker may predict future epilepsy development in febrile seizure sufferers, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), have identified an additional biomarker that predicts future epilepsy development in febrile seizure sufferers.

Children who suffer from 30 minutes or more of fever-related seizures have a 40% probability of developing epilepsy later on in life. Until this study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, there no risk factors were identified that could pinpoint who would be affected, according to a statement from UCI.

In their study, the researchers utilized rats exhibiting symptoms associated with febrile status epilepticus (FSE). To understand the brain activity of the rats, the investigators induced seizures in the rats and used magnetic response imaging (MRI) 2, 4, and 18 hours after the onset of seizures. The rats were then allowed to grow while they were observed for epilepsy development.

Shortly after the seizures, the investigators discovered reduced times in amygdala T2 relaxation for rats that went on to have epilepsy. The researchers explained lower T2 values “likely represented paramagnetic susceptibility effects derived from increased unsaturated venous hemoglobin, suggesting augmented oxygen utilization after FSE termination.”

Furthermore, this marker was witnessed in brain scans for hours after the onset of seizures in FSE rats that later developed epilepsy. The researchers explained the marker was present for so long after seizures because the rats were consuming more energy and utilizing more oxygen in the cerebral blood.

“We were stunned to find that specific regions of the brain in rats ‘destined’ to become epileptic were ‘lighting up’ so early,” Tallie Z Baram, the Danette Shepard Chair in Neurological Studies, and lead researcher for the study, said in a statement. “The signal indicating which rats would go on to have spontaneous epileptic seizures months later was in brain regions known to be involved in temporal lobe epilepsy, which is the type of the disease associated with long febrile seizures in children.”

While the researchers used high-powered scanners to find the marker in rats, they also found the signal could be detected noninvasively in children using scanners that are widely available in hospitals, according to UCI.

“This promising study raises the possibility of identifying children who might be at the highest risk of long-term injury,” Brandy Fureman, program director of National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said in a statement. “It also may help scientists develop effective ways to prevent brain injury after febrile status epilepticus.”