Inflammation Implicated in Another Condition

November 26, 2008 07:43 AM
by Emily Coakley
Research suggests that a common, helpful immune response can contribute to a variety of problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and now epilepsy.

Immune Response Contributes to Seizures, Study Finds

Researchers at Italy’s University of Verona discovered that during seizures, mouse brains release a substance that tells certain immune cells, called leukocytes, to attach to blood vessels in the brain.

“We found a lot of inflammation in this process in the generation of a new seizure,” Gabriela Constantin, the study’s lead author, told Reuters.

As The Washington Post explained, interrupting the adhesion process reduced seizures.

Epilepsy can’t be cured, but it can be managed. This new study might give doctors different treatment options, the news service said.

Research has connected the inflammation response to several different disorders. In 2004, studies suggested that chronic inflammation could play a role in cancer’s development, USA Today reported. One example it cited was a study that “found that people with high levels of a marker for inflammation, C-reactive protein, may be twice as likely to develop colon cancer,” the newspaper said.

“[D]octors suspect that long-term inflammation or infection is involved in up to 20% of cancers, including those of the esophagus, colon, skin, stomach, liver, bladder, breast and some kinds of lymphoma,” USA Today reported.

Some causes of chronic inflammation it mentioned included ulcers, viruses, bacteria and obesity.

The jury is still out on the role the protein plays in heart disease. A recent study said C-reactive protein doesn’t cause heart disease, but another large study this fall suggested that healthy people with high C-reactive protein levels could reduce heart attack and stroke risk by taking Crestor, a statin. The study was funded by Crestor’s manufacturer, AstraZeneca. 

Research published last year linked a heightened risk for the eye disorder age-related macular degeneration to C-reactive protein levels.

“Proteins associated with inflammation, such as fibrinogen and C-reactive protein, have been found in drusen—the white deposits below the retina that are a hallmark of AMD,” reported ScienceDaily.

The news service quoted the study as saying, “Evidence is accumulating that inflammatory and immune-associated pathways have a role in other degenerative diseases associated with advancing age, such as atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease … AMD, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease may partly share a similar inflammatory pathogenesis.”

Related Topic: New epilepsy drug approved

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new medication, known commercially as Banzel, to treat Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, according to HealthDay on U.S. News and World Report. The new medicine has a risk of suicidal thoughts, and the FDA requires that patients be informed of the possibility. Lennox-Gestalt normally appears before a child turns four, “and can be caused by brain malformations, severe head injury, central nervous system infection and inherited degenerative or metabolic conditions,” HealthDay reported.

In up to a third of cases, though, no cause is ever determined.

Reference: Epilepsy, Cancer and Heart Disease Web Guides


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