What are microRNA’s and how do they relate to epilepsy? Here, FutureNeuro researcher Dr. Gary Brennan, Assistant Professor and Conway Fellow at UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science writes about his recent review paper co-authored by Professor David Henshall, Director of FutureNeuro, in the prestigious Nature Reviews Neurology looking at tiny molecules called microRNA’s. A review paper is where researchers look at all of the literature available on a topic, summarising recent developments and highlighting future potentials.

MicroRNAs are small molecules produced in every cell in our body. They play a really important role in deciding how much of each of the thousands of proteins is made. Proteins perform vital roles in every cell in the body, such as producing and releasing the neurotransmitters that brain cells use to communicate. It is really important that the amounts of every protein are correct. Within the brain, microRNAs perform this function and ensure that brain cells work correctly, communicate effectively and respond in appropriate ways to our environment.

In brain diseases such as epilepsy, there is evidence that  microRNAs are important to the process of epilepsy development. Traumatic brain injuries and stroke, which can cause epilepsy not only changes the amount of microRNAs in the brain, but also how they behave. This can have a massive knock on effect because now the molecules which controls what proteins are being made and in what quantities become less effective at doing so.

This is a novel area of epilepsy research and there is still much to learn about the function of these molecules. We reviewed over 250 research articles on microRNAs to show the current understanding of how they contribute to epilepsy development and progression and how they can be targeted (“drugged”) to potentially prevent or reverse already established epilepsy.  

This is a particular area of interest and expertise here in FutureNeuro and we will be continuing to investigate the possibilities these small but mighty little molecules have to develop new treatments for people with epilepsy.

You can read the full review called MicroRNAs as regulators of brain function and targets for treatment of epilepsy in Nature Reviews Neurology.