A potentially groundbreaking Irish study could lead to the creation of a "warning system" for people with epilepsy, alerting when a seizure is going to happen.

Researchers in Ireland found that a signal appears in the blood before an epileptic seizure happens. 

Read More: Dublin-based doctors make worldwide breakthrough in epilepsy treatment

This discovery may lead to the development of an early alert system, which would enable people with epilepsy to know when they are at risk of having a seizure. 

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

Researchers at FutureNeurothe SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases, hosted at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland led the study, which is published in the current edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The researchers have discovered molecules in the blood that are higher in people with epilepsy before a seizure happens. 

Read More: Irish researchers make massive Alzheimer's breakthrough 

These molecules are fragments of transfer RNAs (tRNAs), a chemical closely related to DNA that performs an important role in building proteins within the cell.

When cells are stressed, tRNAs are cut into fragments. Higher levels of the fragments in the blood could reflect that brain cells are under stress in the build-up to a seizure event.

Using blood samples from people with epilepsy at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin and in a similar specialist center in Marburg, Germany, the group found that fragment levels of three tRNAs ”spike” in the blood many hours before a seizure.

“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,” said Dr Marion Hogg, the study’s lead author.

“The results of this study are very promising. We hope that our tRNA research will be a key first step toward developing an early warning system.”

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder, the hallmark of which is recurrent, unprovoked seizures

The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but often the cause is completely unknown. The word "epilepsy" does not indicate anything about the cause of the person's seizures or their severity.

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Although the symptoms of a seizure may affect any part of the body, the electrical events that produce the symptoms occur in the brain. The location of that event, how it spreads, how much of the brain is affected, and how long it lasts all have profound effects.

Around 40,000 people in Ireland have epilepsy and one-third of those don’t respond to current treatments, meaning they continue experiencing seizures.

The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, the CDC estimates 3.4 million Americans are affected.

The risk of premature death in people with epilepsy is up to three times higher than for the general population

What do you think about this latest Irish study which could lead to the creation of a "warning system" for people with epilepsy?
Let us know in the comments below.