Health Watch -- Brain Injury Complications

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Why do some people develop epilepsy after a serious brain injury, while others don't? The answer could be in the genes.

Nearly a quarter of the people who suffer serious brain injuries - like those that might result from a car accident - develop epilepsy. There doesn't appear to be a way to prevent or cure this problem.

But researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas may have discovered why some people develop epilepsy: they may be genetically predisposed to developing the condition. It all comes down to one particular gene involved with lipid metabolism in the brain. Dr. Ramon Diaz-Arrastia, the UT Southwestern neurologist who led the research, says this finding may help scientists discover ways of manipulating lipid metabolism in the brain to prevent epilepsy from developing after an injury.

When the brain is damaged due to injury, nerve cells sprout to rewire the brain. That enables the brain to recover. But sometimes the rewiring goes wrong so that the new "circuit" misfires, and the result is epilepsy. When the UT Southwestern researchers evaluated brain injury patients, they found that those who had a variation in this particular gene were more likely to have epileptic seizures following the injury.

This gene has previously been linked to a higher risk for Alzheimer's disease, dementia in boxers after repeated concussions, poor recovery after brain injury and faster progression to disability in patients with multiple sclerosis.