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Collaborative Health Project: Current Findings


Current Findings

University of Missouri scientists are studying electrical current in nerve cells to understand epilepsy and other neurological disorders.

Nerve cells, also called neurons, use charged atoms known as ions to interpret and transmit information. By allowing ions to flow in and out, neurons generate an electric charge. However, in neurological disorders such as epilepsy, genetic mutations create imbalances in the flow of electrical current—causing seizures and other symptoms. The variability in these imbalances is one of the major problems scientists face when trying to design medicines to treat the disorders.

To understand the mechanisms of seizures and other malfunctions, Dr. David Schulz and other researchers in the Division of Biological Sciences are getting to the root of how nerve cells act individually. The scientists altered electrical input and output in Jonah crabs, whose neurons are comparable to humans. They discovered that neurons fine tune their own molecular-level machinery to regulate the flow of ions and, thus, their electrical charge.

The study provides the first biological evidence that individual neurons work actively to maintain a consistent electrical output. The team’s findings could provide vital clues to finding treatments for epilepsy and other neurological disorders.

Dr. David Schulz is an associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Science.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine