tRNAs: a blood-based biomarker for predicting seizures?

Written by Siobhan Bennett (Future Science Group)

‘Credit: Maxwell Photography’

A promising new study could provide an early warning system to enable people with epilepsy to know when they are at risk of having a seizure.
Diagnosis of epilepsy is complex and challenging. Research led by FutureNeuro (Dublin, Ireland), hosted at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), has identified a unique molecular pattern within the blood before seizures happen. The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

When cells are stressed, this causes tRNA splicing to occur and results in a high level of tRNA within the blood. In this instance, this increase of tRNA fragments could reflect that the brain cells are under stress in the build up to a seizure event.

The levels of these tRNA fragments were also reported to be higher in pre-seizure than in post-seizure samples, indicating that they may serve as a new possible biomarker for epileptic seizures.

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Marion Hogg (FutureNeuro and RCSI), the lead author of the study, explained the importance of this study by saying, “People with epilepsy often report that one of the most difficult aspects of living with the disease is never knowing when a seizure will occur.”

Determining an early seizure warning system will remove the the unpredictability of uncontrolled seizures for people with epilepsy, improving their quality of life. Co-author and FutureNeuro director, David Henshall concluded: ‘Building on this research we in FutureNeuro hope to develop a test prototype, similar to a blood sugar monitor that can potentially predict when a seizure might occur.”

Sources: Hogg MC, Raoof R, El Naggar H et al. Elevation of plasma tRNA fragments precedes seizures in human epilepsy, J. Clin. Invest.  doi:10.1172/JCI126346 (2019) (Epub ahead of print);