Children's Hospital Colorado Neurologist Researches Epilepsy Prevention
Forty percent of people who have epilepsy – 20 million worldwide – have no current, effective treatment. Anti-seizure medications, a common epilepsy treatment, do not work for these patients and they perpetually fear an unpredictable future.
For the 60 percent of people with epilepsy whose seizures are controlled, medication does not address epilepsy’s potential side effects: cognitive delays, memory difficulties, depression and a decreased quality of life.
Research study looks at epilepsy's relation to brain injury
Dr. Amy Brooks-Kayal, a Children’s Colorado neurologist, and a team from Boston University and the University of Colorado are researching epilepsy prevention in those who develop the condition after a traumatic brain injury (TBI).*
TBI may cause epilepsy because, Dr. Brooks-Kayal explains, it activates a trigger called JAK/STAT, a pathway in the brain that regulates gene expression. This response can lead to seizures and in turn epilepsy; the researchers found that further pathway activation after the first seizure could make epilepsy worse over time.
Hopeful for an epilepsy research breakthrough
Their research in animal models tests a novel medication administered at the time of injury to inhibit the JAK/STAT pathway. Eventually, Dr. Brooks-Kayal et al. hope to keep epilepsy from worsening and even prevent it from developing.
If successful, Dr. Brooks-Kayal and the team could be the first in the world to treat any underlying cause of epilepsy. The medication’s implications for other brain conditions, such as stroke, inspire hope.
“A lot of people don’t realize how common and disabling epilepsy is,” says Dr. Brooks-Kayal. “But I think we have made tremendous progress in understanding the underlying causes of epilepsy in the brain that will lead to preventions and cures for this devastating disorder.”
*The United States Department of Defense is funding Dr. Brooks-Kayal’s study.