Listen as Basic Science Editor Sloka Iyengar PhD continues her series of talks about catamenial epilepsy by reviewing how it is studied in laboratory settings.
How Scientists Study Epilepsy in a Lab Setting
Over the years, scientists have been using a variety of models to study epilepsy in the lab. For example, administration of a chemical known as a chemoconvulsant, administration of electrical stimulation, and genetic models are used to generate experimental animals (mostly rats and mice) with seizures. These animal models are used not only to study mechanisms underlying seizures, but also possible therapies.
The advantages of using rodents for this kind of research are numerous.
- They have a short generation time that allows scientists to study them over generations
- They have a relatively short lifespan that makes for more manageable scientific studies.
- Rats and mice, like humans, have cycling ovarian steroid hormones
These factors make them good candidates for these studies.
That being said, the ovarian cycle of rodents lasts 4 to 5 days, and the menstrual cycle in humans lasts 28 days. Therefore, any data from animal models may or may not accurately represent what happens in the human condition. Still, these rodent models give us remarkable insight into changes occurring in the brain leading to seizures.
As one might expect, epilepsy might be caused by (and may result in) many changes in the brain. It is doubtful that any one animal model will capture all the relevant characteristics of the phenomenon. To overcome this challenge, therapies and experiments are tested in a variety of animal models.
Studying Catamenial Epilepsy Brings Special Challenges
- While replicating catamenial epilepsy in rodents, it is important to ensure the animals show characteristics similar to women with catamenial epilepsy.
- Experimental animals should exhibit the changes in estrogen and progesterone seen in women with catamenial epilepsy and should show an increase in seizures due to progesterone withdrawal.
- The ideal model should allow for rapid screening of drug compounds and therapies that might help catamenial epilepsy.
- Current experimental models of catamenial epilepsy involve techniques to cause alterations in estrogen and / or progesterone levels.
- Another model is obtained by withdrawal of neurosteroids.