Dr. Schwartz’s Team Publishes New Findings on Glial Waves in Epilepsy

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Dr. Hongtao Ma of the Weill Cornell Epilepsy Laboratory
Dr. Hongtao Ma of the Weill Cornell Epilepsy Laboratory is the lead author of the new paper on glial waves.

Dr. Theodore Schwartz’s research team, which is dedicated to unraveling the complexities of epilepsy, has published a new paper that describes a novel wave of glial calcium activity triggered by seizures and examines its role and significance. The paper has been published electronically ahead of print in the high-impact basic science journal Cerebral Cortex.

The authors of the paper, “Glial Calcium Waves Are Triggered by Seizure Activity and Not Essential for Initiating Ictal Onset or Neurovascular Coupling,” investigated the role of glial cells in seizure initiation and found that the onset of a seizure triggers a slowly propagating glial calcium wave that ends before the seizure does. Although researchers had earlier believed that glial cells play a role in ictogenesis (the process that initiates a seizure), this investigation shows that they are not critical to the process. Dr. Schwartz’s team also examined the role of glial cells in neurovascular coupling (the connection made between neuronal signals and the increase in cerebral blood flow that follows), and found that they did not critically affect that process.

Dr. Schwartz’s team successfully blocked glial activity as well as the glial calcium wave, and found those blocks to have no material effect on seizure initiation or propagation.

“This is an extremely novel finding,” says Dr. Hongtao Ma, the lead author on the paper. “The paper sheds light on a previously undescribed phenomenon of a glial response to ictal events and calls in to question the role of the glial network in the complex process of seizure initiation, propagation, and termination.”

In addition to Dr. Ma and Dr. Schwartz, the paper was co-authored by Weill Cornell Medicine Neurological Surgery researchers Eliza Baird-Daniel, Andy Daniel, Phillippe Laffont, and Dr. Mingrui Zhao; Dr. Michael Wenzel and Dr. Rafael Yuste of Columbia University; and Dr. Dan Li of First Hospital of Jilin University in Changchun, China.

Read the abstract here
More about Dr. Schwartz’s epilepsy laboratory