Epilepsy research focused on astrocytes

Mariko Onodera and Jan Meyer perform an experiment with potassium-sensitive microelectrodes in the Institute of Neurobiology at HHU.

Press Release:

During epileptic seizures, a large number of nerve cells in the brain fire excessively and in synchrony. This hyperactivity may lead to uncontrolled shaking of the body and involve periods of loss of consciousness. While about two thirds of patients respond to anti-epileptic medication, the remainder is refractory to medical treatment and shows drug-resistance. These patients are in urgent need for new therapeutic strategies.

Together with colleagues in Japan, Prof. Dr. Christine Rose and her doctoral student Jan Meyer from the Institute of Neurobiology at HHU have performed a study to address the cellular mechanisms that promote the development of epilepsy. While up to now, most studies and anti-epileptic drugs targeted nerve cells (neurons), this research team focused on a class of glial cells known as astrocytes.

Glial cells account for approximately half of all cells in the brain. There are different types of glial cells, which perform different functions. Astrocytes control the local environment and are responsible for the ion balance in the brain, but also play an important role in signal transmission between neurons.

In their recent paper, the researchers show that epileptic discharges lead to a rise in the pH of astrocytes, that is in their intracellular ‘alkalisation’. The change in pH disrupts the communication within the intercellular astrocyte networks. This reduced communication between astrocytes appears to exacerbate epileptic activity of neurons.

This finding points towards a potential new target for suppressing epileptogenesis at a very early stage, namely by using drugs to suppress changes in astrocytic pH accompanying neuronal activity.

The researchers were able to confirm this option by showing that animals which were given such drugs suffered less severely from epileptic hyperexcitability than untreated animals.

Prof. Rose said: “This observation is very intriguing. But it still needs to be established whether or not it can be transferred to humans. And it will take a very long time before any potential drug can be developed and be really used in the clinics.”


The research was carried out as a collaboration between the HHU and three universities in Japan (Keio University and Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Tokyo, Tohoku University in Sendai) as part of the “Young Glia” programme of the DFG-Priority Programme SPP 1757 “Functional Specialisations of Neuroglia” coordinated by Prof. Rose. This programme promotes collaboration between German and Japanese laboratories. In particular, it encourages and assists young scientists in realising their own bi-national research projects. For example, the HHU doctoral student Jan Meyer travelled to Japan, while Mariko Onodera from Tohoku University spent two periods working at the Institute of Neurobiology in Düsseldorf.

Original publication

Mariko Onodera, Jan Meyer, Kota Furukawa, Yuichi Hiraoka, Tomomi Aida, Kohichi Tanaka, Kenji F. Tanaka, Christine R. Rose, and Ko Matsui, Exacerbation of epilepsy by astrocyte alkalization and gap junction uncoupling, Journal of Neuroscience, 2021


SaleBestseller No. 1
Wyllie's Treatment of Epilepsy: Principles and Practice
  • Hardcover Book
  • Wyllie MD, Elaine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1096 Pages - 05/13/2020 (Publication Date) - LWW (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 2
The 2021-2026 World Outlook for Epilepsy Treatments
  • Parker Ph.D., Prof Philip M. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 299 Pages - 02/13/2020 (Publication Date) - ICON Group International, Inc. (Publisher)
SaleBestseller No. 3
Medication-Resistant Epilepsy: Diagnosis and Treatment
  • Hardcover Book
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 286 Pages - 10/15/2020 (Publication Date) - Cambridge University Press (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 4
Walk To End Epilepsy - Epilepsy Awareness Shirt
  • Beat Epilepsy Awareness Shirt, Fight Epilepsy Awareness Shirt, Epilepsy Awareness ribbon shirt, Epilepsy Awareness tee shirt, Epilepsy Awareness shirt for women, Epilepsy Awareness shirt for men
  • Epilepsy Awareness Shirt, Epilepsy Awareness t Shirt, Support Epilepsy Awareness Shirt, Epilepsy Awareness warriors, Epilepsy Awareness shirts, Epilepsy Shirt, Epilepsy shirts, Epilepsy tee shirt, Epilepsy ribbons shirt, Epilepsy warriors shirt
  • Lightweight, Classic fit, Double-needle sleeve and bottom hem
Bestseller No. 5
Recent Advances in Epilepsy Research (Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 548)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 266 Pages - 12/06/2010 (Publication Date) - Springer (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 6
Ketogenic Diet Therapies for Epilepsy and Other Conditions, Seventh Edition
  • Kossoff MD, Eric (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 12/16/2020 (Publication Date) - Demos Health (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 7
Epilepsy Bracelet Kids– Colorful Seizure Alert Bracelet for Kids –Epilepsy Awareness, Latex-Free Adjustable Wristband for Kids Ages 3+ (2 Pack “Dr. E”) Kid Emergency Bracelet
  • EPILEPSY AWARENESS: AllerMates’ epilepsy bracelet is a fun yet functional medical wristband for kids. It alerts caretakers and friends of your kid’s epilepsy so they’re prepared in case of seizures. This medical allergy bracelet set is a hypo-allergenic and waterproof strap. Measures 7” in length, this colorful seizure alert bracelet has three adjustable snaps that fit most kids 3 and up.
  • SAFETY WITH A SMILE: Allermates’ epilepsy awareness bracelet is useful when you’re sending your kid out into the world. Get an extra peace of mind knowing your child is safe while he’s out exploring and having fun. 100% latex-free, waterproof and nickel-free, the safety wristband for kids meets and exceeds US and European safety standards on children’s product.
  • NO WORRIES, BE HAPPY: Let your kids play and run around all day without worries! This medical wristband is made of durable, high-grade plastic material with an accessible lock to seal and secure around the wrist. So, it stays snug and fit all day long.
  • FUN AND COLORFUL: Featuring “Dr. E” as AllerMate’s epilepsy character, this kid-friendly seizure bracelet was designed to be bright and colorful, while bringing awareness to other people about your child’s condition.
  • MOM-FRIENDLY, KID APPROVED: medical alert bracelet keeps your child safe while providing awareness in an eye-catching way. AllerMates offer a wide selection of safety wristbands for kids and parents. Alert the caretakers of their medical condition in a simple way every day with AllerMates. Here to make life safer, easier, and more fun!
Bestseller No. 8
Living Well with Epilepsy: An Expert Explains What You Really Need to Know (Living Well (Collins))
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Bazil, Carl W. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 276 Pages - 10/13/2009 (Publication Date) - William Morrow (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 9
Epilepsy Information
  • causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awarenes
  • English (Publication Language)
SaleBestseller No. 10
The Epilepsy Prescriber's Guide to Antiepileptic Drugs
  • Patsalos, Philip N. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 376 Pages - 08/02/2018 (Publication Date) - Cambridge University Press (Publisher)

I get commissions for purchases made through links on this website. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.