Temple Health (01.23.13)
Aids Weekly Plus
Researchers at Shriner’s Hospital Pediatric Research Center at Temple University School of Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania have found that the human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16), a common cause of cervical cancer, is linked to a common form of childhood epilepsy.
The researchers have found that HPV16 may be present in the human brain. When they added a viral protein to the brains of fetal mice, the mice showed developmental problems in the cerebral cortex associated with a type of epilepsy called focal cortical dysplasia type IIB (FCDIIB). FCDIIB is a developmental malformation in the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that plays a key role in thought, perception, and memory. It is a common cause of pediatric and adult epilepsy and is thought to occur in the womb during early brain development. It is characterized by a disorganized cellular structure and enlarged balloon cells.
Dr. Peter Crino, professor of neurology at Temple University School of Medicine, a member of Shriner’s Hospital Pediatric Research Center, and the study’s senior author, hypothesized that the HPV protein may be detected in FCDIIB because of similarities between cervical dysplasia and focal cortical dysplasia. The investigators examined FCDIIB tissue samples from 50 patients for evidence of the HPV16 E6 protein. They found that all samples were positive for the protein in balloon cells, but not in areas without balloon cells or in 36 control samples from healthy individuals. They then examined the samples of genetic material to search for evidence of HPV16 E6 and compared findings to tissue from healthy controls. Tissue from patients with FCDIIB contained HPV16 E6 protein while control specimens and tissue from other types of dysplasia and conditions did not. The researchers introduced E6 protein into the brains of fetal mice, to determine whether the E6 protein was the cause of the dysplasia. The mice’s brains developed malformations. The researchers plan to investigate other forms of cortical dysplasia to see if HPV or other viral proteins can be found.
The researchers are not sure how the virus gets into the brain or the exact mechanism by which it might cause the malformation and epilepsy. Implications for therapeutic approaches for this type of epilepsy and other forms are discussed.
The study, “Detection of Human Papillomavirus in Human Focal Cortical Dysplasia Type IIB,” was published in the journal Annals of Neurology (2012; 72 (6): 881–892).