The model, which researchers refer to as a “seizure-in-a-dish” model system, will allow scientists to study seizures at a network level. In this way, they can use the model to screen for anti-epileptic drugs in a fast and easy manner.
Minneapolis-based Pairnomix has expertise in epilepsy models, while San Diego-based StemoniX has developed the microBrain Platform. The model mirrors tissue architecture in the brain, with nerve cells connecting to each other through synapses, forming functional networks.
For brain diseases such as epilepsy, iPSCs are invaluable research tools. These cells can be derived from skin tissue, and are forced to backtrack in development to form stem cells, which can then be turned into neurons.
For the original microBrain model, StemoniX used nerve cells that signal using two main neurotransmitters — glutamate and GABA — as well as glial cells called astrocytes. These two neuron types are crucial in epilepsy, as glutamate acts as the gas pedal of the brain, while GABA is its brake.
The two companies are now working together to develop an epilepsy-specific brain model, by adapting the microBrain technology.
“We are excited to bring our microBrain platform to the field of epilepsy research with Pairnomix, knowing their expertise will advance our ability to build a valuable research vehicle,” StemoniX CEO Ping Yeh said in a press release.
Added Pairnomix CEO Matthew Fox: “This partnership creates new opportunities for our personalized genetic evaluation approach to help patients today and expands our ability to find meaningful therapies to help people in the epilepsy community.”
The new model will be able to generate seizure-type electrical activity across a neural network. By studying the cells in the model, researchers will also be able to spot the subtle effects of drugs, which might be more difficult to measure in a more complex environment, such as a laboratory animal. The two companies believe their new seizure model can be used for high-throughput screening of compounds in the search for new anti-epileptic drugs.