The National Institutes of Health will pour $17 million over five years into UC Davis research to pinpoint antidotes to seizure-causing neurotoxic chemicals, the university announced on Wednesday.
The new UC Davis CounterACT Center for Excellence will join an NIH network delving into responses to chemical threats.
“Neurotoxic chemicals have the sobering potential to cause massive disabling and even lethal seizures among a civilian population,” said Pamela Lein, a developmental neurobiologist and neurotoxicologist in UCD’s School of Veterinary Medicine, who will direct the new center, in a news release.
“It’s imperative that new and improved antidotes be developed so that emergency responders and medical professionals have the tools to not only protect themselves when responding to an emergency involving these chemicals, but also to minimize the neurological damage from such chemicals in individuals who survive the exposure, whether those chemicals are released intentionally or accidentally.”
Existing campus laboratories will be used for the research program. It will target a group of chemicals known as organophosphates and on tetramethylenedisulfotetramine, or TETS, a neurotoxin that was once used in rat poison.
Organophosphates can cause seizures by inhibiting the enzyme that regulates muscle contractions and pathways of communication inside the brain.
How TETS, now banned in most countries, causes seizures isn’t as clear. It appears to release the “biochemical ‘brake’ ” that controls electrical signals between brain cells, according to the news release.
“Very small amounts” of the chemicals will be used, UCD said.
The research may also open new doors to treating seizure disorders. Potential side benefits listed by UCD include: a better understanding of the causes of seizures, new neuroimaging techniques and biomarkers for monitoring damage wrought by seizures caused by chemicals and new ways to control seizures for people with epilepsy.
Planned research projects will focus on:
* developing drugs and treatment minimizing brain damage in seizure survivors;
* improved treatments for preventing seizures, and
* new tests and imaging techniques for screening chemical compounds.
Lein, Michael Rogawski, a professor of neurology in the School of Medicine, and Isaac Pessah, chair of the School of Veterinary Medicines’s department of molecular biosciences, will head up the research projects.