Tau Protein Reduction Integral in Treating Childhood Epilepsy

The reduction of tau proteins can halt the development of Dravet syndrome, a form of childhood epilepsy, according to research in modified mice.

The reduction of tau proteins can halt the development of Dravet syndrome, a form of childhood epilepsy, University of California, San Francisco researchers found.

A genetic mutation, Dravet syndrome is caused by abnormalities within sodium channels. Aside from frequent seizures during childhood, the condition is also associated with autism-like behavior and cognitive difficulties. For 20% of sufferers, Dravet syndrome also results in sudden mortality, according to the Gladstone Institutes.

For their study, published in the Annals of Neurology, the investigators deleted 2 tau alleles in modified mice with Dravet syndrome. The researchers then observed their “survival, epileptic activity, related hippocampal alterations, and behavioral abnormalities ... electroencephalographic recordings, acute slice electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, and behavioral assays.”

By reducing the mice’s tau levels, the authors reported a decrease in both spontaneous and febrile seizures. Tau manipulation was also discovered to prevent chemical hippocampal alterations that cause learning and memory deficiencies, and epilepsy.

While the researchers deleted 2 tau alleles, they found removing just one effectively stopped mice’s epileptic seizures and improved their survival and nesting performance.

This isn’t the only study to highlight tau proteins role in neurological conditions. Altering tau proteins’ activity has been deemed useful for treating neurological difficulties common in Alzheimer’s disease patients, according to the statement.

Nevertheless, the investigators believe their findings could be useful for treating other forms of epilepsy. Lennart Mucke, MD, the director of the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, professor of Neurology and Neuroscience at UCSF, and the study’s senior author, said he intends to translate this therapy used on mice to benefit humans.

“I am especially excited about the improvements we observed in cognitive and behavioral dysfunctions because these abnormalities are particularly hard on the kids — and their parents,” Ania Gheyara, MD, PhD, a scientist at Gladstone and the study’s first author, said in a statement. Gheyara also expressed hopefulness that the therapy could treat other forms of epilepsy.