Drug refractory epilepsy (RE) is a chronic neurological disease with varied etiology that represents a group of patients whose seizures do not respond to antiepileptic drugs. The immune system may have a role in seizure and epilepsy development, but the specific mechanisms of inflammation that lead to epileptogenesis and contribute to RE are unknown. Here, we used mass cytometry to comprehensively study the immune system of pediatric patients with RE and compared their immune profile and function with patients with age-matched autoimmune encephalitis (AIE) and healthy controls. Patients with RE and AIE displayed similar immune profiles overall, with changes in CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets and an unbalance toward proinflammatory IL-17 production. In addition, patients with RE uniquely showed an altered balance in NK cell subsets. A systems-level intercellular network analysis identified rewiring of the immune system, leading to loss of inhibitory/regulatory intercellular connections and emergence of proinflammatory pathogenic functions in neuroinflammatory immune cell networks in patients with AIE and RE. These data underscore the contribution of systemic inflammation to the pathogenesis of seizures and epileptogenesis and have direct translational implications in advancing diagnostics and therapeutics design.


Pavanish Kumar, Derrick Chan Wei Shih, Amanda Lim, Bhairav Paleja, Simon Ling, Lai Li Yun, Su Li Poh, Adeline Ngoh, Thaschawee Arkachaisri, Joo Guan Yeo, Salvatore Albani


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