A study by a research team in Ireland has identified molecules in the blood that could facilitate the prediction of seizures before they happen.

The team involved scientists from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases.

During the study, researchers found a pattern of molecules in blood that are higher in epilepsy patients before a seizure happens.

The molecules comprised fragments of transfer RNAs (tRNAs), which play a key role in building proteins within the cell.

When cells become stressed, tRNAs are cut into fragments and higher levels of these fragments in the blood are considered as an indicator of the build-up to a seizure event.

Upon testing blood samples from epilepsy patients, researchers observed an increase in the fragment levels of three tRNAs many hours before a seizure.

The blood samples were obtained from the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, and a similar specialist centre in Marburg, Germany.

Findings from the study have been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI). They are expected to facilitate the development of an early warning tool for epilepsy patients.

FutureNeuro investigator Dr Marion Hogg said: “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.

“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.”

FutureNeuro is planning to create a test prototype, similar to a blood sugar monitor, to potentially predict when a seizure might occur.