Modified tree resins prevent zebrafish from having seizures

Could these resins also be used to treat epilepsy in humans?

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a cut tree oozing resin

Photo by Alexandra Mirgheș on Unsplash  

Epilepsy is a medical condition in which increased electrical activity in the brain causes seizures. There are medications available to prevent seizures for most people with epilepsy who choose to seek treatment. For about one-third of treatment-seeking people, however, there are no effective medications.

Now, scientists may have discovered a new way to prevent seizures from a surprising source: tree resin.

The results were recently reported in the journal Epilepsia by a team of researchers at Linköping University in Sweden. The team was studying a group of molecules called resin acids, which are found in the liquid that oozes out when a tree is cut or a branch falls off.

The scientists produced chemically-modified resin acids and found that some of the chemically-modified resin acids can cause a subtype of potassium channel to open. These channels, located on the surface of neurons (cells that transmit information in our brains), decrease the electrical activity in the brain when opened. When these channels are closed for too, long electrical activity in the brain can become dangerously elevated and cause a seizure.

The researchers also found that some chemically-modified resin acids prevent seizure activity in the larvae of small fish called zebrafish. The study is just the first step on the long road from testing in zebrafish to testing in humans, but the results are encouraging for the development of anti-seizure medications.