Photo with 36 notes
When neurons fire together uncontrollably, epileptic seizures ensue. Yet what sparks the cells to go haywire in the first place? In January scientists found an unexpected answer. When glial cells in the cortex of fruit flies cannot properly control their calcium levels, they leave neighboring neurons vulnerable to seizures
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified a genetic mutation that causes fruit flies to seize when they are exposed to heat or vibration. On studying the mutation, they found that it affects a gene called zydeco that controls calcium exchange inside glial cells—a surprise considering that most research about seizures has focused on neurons. And logically so: neurons fire electrical impulses, whereas most glial cells do not. “It threw us for a loop at first,” explains lead author and M.I.T. graduate student Jan Melom.