Genetic study points to potential epilepsy therapy

Genetic study points to potential epilepsy therapy
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Newly identified drugs are promising candidates for epilepsy therapy as they directly target the genetic basis of the disease.

In order to create a better understanding of genetic factors that contribute to the most common forms of this condition, researchers compared the DNA of more than 15,000 people with epilepsy to the DNA of 30,000 people without epilepsy. The results tripled the number of known genetic associations for epilepsy and implicated 11 new genes, paving the way for potential epilepsy therapy.

Can an effective epilepsy therapy be developed?

Dr Colin Doherty, National Clinical Lead for Epilepsy and a Principal Investigator at the FutureNeuro Centre explains: “We have appreciated for some time that genetics plays an important role in epilepsy, however, until now, relatively little was known about the specific genes responsible for the most common forms of the disorder.

“Identifying the genes that cause epilepsy is particularly important when we consider that a third of the 65 million patients worldwide will not become seizure free using current treatment options.”

This study greatly advances knowledge of the underlying biological causes of epilepsy and has the potential of developing new treatments for the condition.

The researchers found that the majority of current anti-epileptic drugs directly target one or more of the associated genes and identified an additional 166 drugs that do the same. These drugs are promising new candidates for epilepsy therapy as they directly target the genetic basis of the disease.

The importance of collaboration

Gianpiero Cavalleri, associate professor at the RCSI Department of molecular and cellular therapeutics and deputy director of the FutureNeuro SFI Research Centre adds more about the significance of collaborating to help achieve developing epilepsy therapy: “This work illustrates the power of scientists collaborating across countries and continents. Discovering these new genes for epilepsy provides important information towards novel treatments for the condition. This is another important step on the road towards curing the epilepsies.”

“In addition to the biological insights provided by the findings, this study will encourage researchers to develop personalized and precision therapies for patients with difficult and complex epilepsy. This will provide better seizure control and will enable improved quality of life for patients and families,” said consultant neurologist Norman Delanty, Associate Professor at RCSI, FutureNeuro and Beaumont Hospital.

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