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#HRB30 Story

Targeting epilepsy: a new way to control seizures

19 December 2016

Around one person in every 100 has epilepsy, where over-communication within the brain leads to seizures. HRB-funded research at the Royal College of Surgeons has found a way to target a ‘master regulator’ of how brain cells communicate. Blocking this regulator could reduce or even stop seizures from happening. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies are now exploring the approach as a potential new medicine for epilepsy.

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, lead researcher Prof David Henshall

The problem

Around one in every 100 people has epilepsy, a brain condition where the person has seizures. In Ireland tens of thousands of people have been diagnosed with epilepsy. While seizures are well controlled in a majority, many people continue to experience seizures, so we need to find new ways to protect the brain from these events.

The project

Professor David Henshall and colleagues at RCSI had previously discovered that a naturally occurring molecule in the body called microRNA134 (miR-134) has a role to play in seizures in epilepsy. MiR-134 helps to control the strength of electrical contact points between brain cells, that can lead to the brain cell connections being easily sparked or excited, which may trigger or amplify a seizure. With funding from the HRB, the team discovered that if you block miR- 134 in an experimental model, the seizures reduce or even stop completely

The outcomes
  • A potential new drug to control seizures in epilepsy.
  • Contracts with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to develop the potential new therapy further and bring it closer to patients.
  • A new method to inject the potential drug so that it can more easily access the brain in epilepsy.
  • Several papers in prestigious scientific journals.

Professor David Henshall says:

'This is an exciting discovery because it could lead to a new way to lessen or even stop seizures in people with epilepsy. And because microRNAs play such important roles in brain function, being able to access and target them as we have could encourage new therapies for other brain diseases too'.

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