‘Epilepsy Gene’ Find Opens Door to Better Treatment

Epileptic seizures are the result of a storm of electrical activity in the brain which can last from a few seconds up to several minutes (Credit: NYU Langone Medical Center).

The discovery by scientists in Dublin of an ‘epilepsy gene’ that is present in “unusually high amounts” in people with epilepsy opens the door for the development of new and better drug treatments for epileptic seizures.

Epilepsy is a disease that affects 37,000 Irish adults, as well as an estimated 50 million people worldwide, but little is known about why epileptic seizures occur, or why a significant number of people do not respond to drug therapies.

One in three people with epilepsy have a problem with the currently available drug therapies. This group of people either do not respond at all to the drugs, or they experience severe side effects.

The reasons why epilepsy occurs in certain people, and why fits happen only occasionally are poorly understood. There is a genetic link, but drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sleep deprivation are also causative factors, say scientists.

The finding of a new gene linked to epilepsy by Professor David Henshall and his team at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland was reported in the scientific journal, Nature Medicine.

LISTEN: Interview with Professor David Henshall

This interview was broadcast on the 26th July 2012 on Science Spinning on 103.2 Dublin City FM