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July 19, 2017
CURE Grantee Awards Announced
Research, CURE News, SUDEP

CURE is pleased to announce new recipients of funding for its Sleep & Epilepsy Award, Taking Flight Award, and Innovator Award grants. CURE presents these grants for novel research projects that focus on finding the cures for epilepsy and address the goal of “no seizures, no side-effects, end epilepsy” Specifically, CURE funds research that works to understand and prevent epilepsy, identify disease modifying or eliminating therapies, eliminate SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy), and reverse deficits caused by frequent seizures. These researchers are added to the long list of distinguished CURE grantees helping pave the way to a cure for epilepsy. Since its inception in 1998, CURE has been at the forefront of epilepsy research, raising more than $50 million to fund over 200 cutting-edge projects in 15 countries around the world.

 

Sleep & Epilepsy Award Grantee

Franck Kalume, PhD
Seattle Children’s Hospital

Non-pharmacological manipulations of sleep and circadian rhythms to prevent seizures and sudden death in mouse models of refractory epilepsy

Acute and chronic sleep and circadian disruptions are commonly present in people with treatment-resistant epilepsies. They are linked to several negative consequences, including cognitive impairment, emotional disorders, and poor seizure control and quality of life. In planned studies, Dr. Kalume and his team will use well-established genetic mouse models of human refractory epilepsies, namely the Dravet syndrome and focal cortical dysplasia. First, they will correct sleep abnormality by manipulations of daily feeding, locomotor activity, or environmental temperature. Then, they will examine the impacts of these interventions on the course of epilepsy and sudden unexpected death phenotypes.

This award of $220,000 allows researchers to study the connection between sleep and epilepsy, and translate findings to significantly help patients. This Sleep and Epilepsy Award is possible because of support from The BAND Foundation.

 

Taking Flight Award Grantees

Gary Brennan, PhD
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Towards the understanding of the epitranscriptome in epileptogenesis

The molecular mechanisms which drive the development of epilepsy following epilepsy-inciting events are still being unravelled. Once thought to merely represent the DNA code and facilitate translation, RNA has more recently been shown to be involved in numerous cellular and disease processes through the discovery of non-coding RNAs, regulatory long non-coding-RNA, circular RNAs, etc. Similarly, the regulation of RNA itself has been shown to be extremely complex. Analogous to DNA methylation and phosphorylation of proteins, RNAs have been shown to be subjected to complex regulation which determines their function. This work aims to characterise RNA regulation and function in pre-clinical mouse models of epilepsy and in human epileptic tissue, and understand how aberrant regulation of RNA can contribute to the development of epilepsy. It is hoped that gaining a more thorough understanding of the molecular drivers of epileptogenesis will allow the identification of novel anti-epileptogenic targets.

 

William Nobis, MD, PhD
Northwestern University

Evaluation of how extended amygdala control of the autonomic nervous system us altered in epilepsy and its implications for SUDEP

It has proven difficult to link the myriad proposed features leading to the cardiac and respiratory decline in sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP). This project aims to identify a specific neuronal subtype in a deep brain nucleus which may be critical in cardiorespiratory control, providing a better understanding of the mechanism of SUDEP. The goal is first to identify that these neurons control cardiorespiratory functions and characterize them. Finally, we will verify that these neurons are activated in a genetic model of epilepsy in the hopes that further examination of these neurons might provide a potential therapeutic target to prevent SUDEP.

 

Flavia Vitale, PhD
University of Pennsylvania

A tunable, controllable microarray for mapping epileptic brain networks

Localization-related epilepsies account for the majority of patients with seizures, many of whom do not respond to medications. Surgery or treatment with implantable devices have the potential to make many patients seizure-free, but results are limited by our inability to precisely localize brain areas where seizures begin. Dr. Vitale has developed a new class of very small, flexible electrodes that can be independently controlled after they are implanted, allowing surgeons to safely map epileptic networks in the brain with high precision. With support from CURE, Dr. Vitale will build these new devices and test them in animal models of focal epilepsy, to detect and map seizure generation and spread. If successful, this exciting new technology could precisely localize seizure networks, and allow clinicians to focally ablate or suppress them with unprecedented accuracy, exactly where they are generated.

The Taking Flight Award of $100,000 seeks to promote the careers of young epilepsy investigators to allow them to develop a research focus independent of their mentor(s).

 

Innovator Award Grantee

Tore Eid, MD, PhD
Yale University

Role of gut microbiota in epilepsy

Nearly one thousand different types of bacteria colonize the human gut.  Some of these bacteria are helpful to us, while others can cause disease.  Obesity, diabetes, stomach ulcers and Parkinson's disease have all been linked to changes in the gut bacterial flora.  However, little is known about the role of the gut bacteria in epilepsy.  The goal in this research is to investigate whether certain types of gut bacteria can stop or trigger seizures and how they are able to do so.  If successful, our research could pave the way for completely new treatments for epilepsy by safely manipulating the gut bacteria using dietary intervention, probiotics, or short courses of antibiotics.

This $50,000 award explores a highly innovative new concept or untested theory that has the potential to reveal entirely new avenues for investigation in epilepsy research.

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