In this month’s epilepsy research news, we share two studies that have identified potential new mechanisms for preventing or treating seizures. The first study, conducted by CURE Epilepsy grantee Dr. John Swann and colleagues, uses an animal model of severe epileptic spasms to reveal a particular type of brain cell important in the generation of these spasms. The second study investigates the role of the brain’s neuronal support system in managing brain hyperexcitability, such as that seen in epilepsy.
We also report an advance in the ability to forecast the probability of seizures, sometimes days in advance, using an implantable device. Another study finds that pregnant women with epilepsy do not have an increased seizure rate during pregnancy as long as their medication levels are carefully monitored.
Finally, we highlight a study finding a slightly increased risk of COVID-19 hospital admission and death in individuals with epilepsy who also have other risk factors or specific health conditions.
Summaries of these research discoveries are below.
- Understanding Epileptic Spasms (Featuring the work of CURE Epilepsy grantee Dr. John Swann): In work partially funded by CURE Epilepsy’s Infantile Spasms Initiative, CURE Epilepsy Grantee Dr. John Swann and colleagues found evidence that severe epileptic spasms originate from a specific cell type located in the frontal lobe of the brain. The study also revealed that brain activity immediately before epileptic spasms closely resembles a phase of the sleep cycle, highlighting potential avenues to prevent these spasms from occurring. Learn more
- Immune Cells and Seizure Prevention: A recent study has found that microglia, cells that are an important part of the brain’s immune system, help prevent brain hyperexcitability (which can lead to seizures) by constantly surveilling their environment through a process that involves extending and retracting “branches” from their cell body. These findings could open new therapeutic avenues for epilepsy, which is characterized by hyperexcitability of neurons in the brain. Learn More
- Forecasting Epilepsy: A new study has found that seizure probability can be forecasted days in advance by using a particular type of data recorded with an implanted device that monitors brain activity. The study, which analyzed data collected during a trial of participants who had an FDA-approved, implanted neurostimulation device, raises?the possibility of eventually providing epilepsy patients with seizure forecasts that could predict the likelihood that a seizure will occur days in advance. Learn More
- Epilepsy and Pregnancy: Women with epilepsy do not have an increased seizure rate during pregnancy as long as they have their medication levels carefully monitored, a new study suggests. The study showed similar fluctuations in seizure rates in women with epilepsy during pregnancy to seizure rates in a group of women with epilepsy who were not pregnant. Learn More
- Epilepsy and COVID-19 Risk: There is a slightly increased risk of hospital admission and death from COVID-19 in people with epilepsy, according to a new study. The research looked at risk factors for hospital admissions and death from COVID-19 in more than 6 million adults across England. The researchers found a small increase in risk of hospital admissions and deaths resulting from COVID-19 in both men and women with epilepsy and other risk factors such as Down Syndrome and sickle cell disease. Learn More