May 13, 2021

Epilepsy Research News: May 2021

This month’s research news features the discovery that the tonic phase of a seizure along with failure of the respiratory system is associated with sudden death in a mouse model of epilepsy. This research, featuring the work of CURE Epilepsy grantee Dr. Ian Wenker, brings scientists closer to understanding ways to prevent sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). 

Also included in this month’s news is work by former CURE Epilepsy grantee Dr. Moushin Shafi and co-authors indicating that some hospitalized patients with COVID-19 experience non-convulsive seizures, which are associated with higher rates of death and a longer hospital stay.

Finally, we report advances in EEG and imaging technology to better pinpoint the location of seizures in the brain as well as the creation of an updated ‘language’ to describe seizures that may improve the diagnosis of epilepsy.

Summaries of these research discoveries can be found below.

Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (Featuring the research of CURE Epilepsy grantee Dr. Ian Wenker): New research has found that the tonic phase of a seizure is associated with sudden death in a mouse model of epilepsy. In this research, death was associated with apnea – or the failure to breathe – during the tonic phase, along with subsequent failure to resume breathing. Based on this research, the authors identified potential approaches to stimulate breathing in the mice and prevent death after a seizure. Learn more.

COVID-19 and Seizure (Featuring the work of former CURE Epilepsy grantee Dr. Moushin Shafi): A new study indicates that some hospitalized patients with COVID-19 experience non-convulsive seizures, which may put them at a higher risk of dying. “Seizures can happen in patients with COVID-19 critical illness, even those without any prior neurologic history, and they are associated with worse outcomes: higher rates of death and a longer hospital stay, even after adjusting for other factors,” says co-senior author Dr. Mouhsin Shafi. Dr. Shafi notes that the results suggest that patients with COVID-19 should be monitored closely for non-convulsive seizures. Learn more.

EEG Technology to Pinpoint Seizures in the Brain: New research seeks to establish a safer, more cost-effective, and quicker way to pinpoint brain tissues responsible for seizures in people with epilepsy. This research uses non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG) technology along with the development of a novel machine learning algorithm to automatically identify and link certain types of brain activity, creating a way to “mark” the area of the brain exhibiting epileptic activity. The authors note that this work may offer new, noninvasive tools to improve epilepsy treatments. Learn more.

Imaging technology to Pinpoint Seizures in the Brain: An advanced imaging approach that creates 4D brain maps to locate areas of the brain responsible for seizures was evaluated in a small study and shows promise. The approach uses an enhanced form of a type of brain imaging called positron-emission tomography, or PET, which measures glucose use in the brain. Though the researchers say a larger study is needed to fully assess the potential of this approach, it holds promise to allow doctors to pinpoint the spot in the brain that is triggering seizures. Learn more.

Diagnosing Epilepsy: A team of scientists have created an updated “language” to improve epilepsy research and diagnosis. This language has been incorporated into the Human Phenotype Ontology, a standardized vocabulary of many different human diseases that is used to help interpret genetic results. The authors note that this refined language, which includes updated seizure classification, can ultimately improve epilepsy diagnosis and precision treatment of epilepsy. Learn more.

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