Scientists have observed the neurological mechanism behind temperature-dependent — febrile — seizures by genetically engineering fruit flies to harbor a mutation analogous to one that causes epileptic seizures in people. In addition to contributing the insight on epilepsy, their new study highlights the first use of genetic engineering to swap a human genetic disease mutation into a directly analogous gene in a fly.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In a newly reported set of experiments that show the value of a particularly precise but difficult genetic engineering technique, researchers at Brown University and the University of California–Irvine have created a Drosophila fruit fly model of epilepsy to discern the mechanism by which temperature-dependent seizures happen.
The researchers used a technique called homologous recombination — a more precise and sophisticated technique than transgenic gene engineering — to give flies a disease-causing mutation that is a direct analogue of the mutation that leads to febrile epileptic seizures in humans. They observed the temperature-dependent seizures in whole flies and also observed the process in their brains. What they discovered is that the mutation leads to a breakdown in the ability of certain cells that normally inhibit brain overactivity to properly regulate their electrochemical behavior. (more…)