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article imageScientists find high level of zinc can increase seizure risk

By Tim Sandle     Aug 5, 2016 in Health
Austin - Zinc might be an important nutrient, but it can raise the risk of seizures when it gets into the brain, according to new research Texas A&M scientists.
Health advice often recommends ensuring that sufficient levels of zinc are consumed via food. Zinc is classed as an essential mineral and described by one health scientist as being of "exceptional biologic and public health importance", especially regarding prenatal and postnatal development."
While zinc is a recommended nutrient, too much can, according to new research, elevate the risk of seizures should the mineral enter the brain. This comes from a new study by researchers based at Texas A&M scientists. The research was led by Dr. D. Samba Reddy.
The new research shows how zinc can lock key inhibitory receptors in the brain, leading to inhibition’s opposite — excitation — and therefore to seizures. Specifically, zinc interferes with neuronal communications (the electrical signals that zap around the brain.)
Exploring this further using an animal model, Dr. Reddy and his team discovered zinc blocks inhibitory extrasynaptic GABA receptors. These receptors play an important role in epilepsy, memory and other brain functions. The blockage occurs because neurosteroids, which are naturally present in the body and help to prevent seizures, are unable to bind to the GABA receptors due to the presence of zinc.
Despite the effect being observed, the risks are low as zinc cannot normally cross the blood-brain barrier. However, certain health conditions can make this cross-over possible, including encephalitis or brain injury.
The new research has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The research paper is headed "Zinc Selectively Blocks Neurosteroid-Sensitive Extrasynaptic δGABAA Receptors in the Hippocampus."
More about Zinc, Seizures, Brain, Development, Medical
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