Study Characterizes Mouse Model of Neocortical Injury–Induced Status Epilepticus

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsia

Objective: To characterize neocortical onset status epilepticus (SE) in the C57BL/6J mouse.

Methods: We induced SE by administering homocysteine 16-18 hours after cobalt (Co) implantation. SE was monitored by video and electroencephalography (EEG). We evaluated brain structure with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Neurodegeneration was evaluated 72 hours after SE using Fluoro-Jade C staining.

Results: Cobalt triggered seizures in a dose-dependent manner (median effective dose, ED50 = 0.78 mg) and the latency to peak seizure frequency shortened with increased dose. Animals developed SE after homocysteine administration. SE began with early intermittent focal seizures, consisting of frontal onset rhythmic spike-wave discharges manifested as focal dystonia with clonus. These focal seizures then evolved into generalized continuous convulsive activity. Behavioral manifestations of SE included tonic stiffening, bilateral limb clonus, and bilateral tonic-clonic movements, which were accompanied by generalized rhythmic spike-wave discharges on EEG. After prolonged seizures, animals became comatose with intermittent bilateral myoclonic seizures or jerks. During this period, EEG showed seizures interspersed with generalized periodic discharges on a suppressed background. MRI obtained when animals were in a coma revealed edema, midline shift in frontal lobe around the Co implantation site, and ventricular effacement. Fluoro-Jade C staining revealed neurodegeneration in the cortex, amygdala, and thalamus.

Significance: We have developed a mouse model of severe, refractory cortical-onset SE, consisting of convulsions merging into a coma, EEG patterns of cortical seizures, and injury, with evidence of widespread neocortical edema and damage. This model replicates many features of acute seizures and SE resulting from traumatic brain injury, subarachnoid, and lobar hemorrhage.

Sleep-Wake Characteristics in a Mouse Model of Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: Relation to Post-Traumatic Epilepsy

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsia Open

Study objectives: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) results in sequelae that include post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) and sleep-wake disturbances. Here we sought to determine whether sleep characteristics could predict development of PTE in a model of severe TBI.

Methods: Following controlled cortical impact (CCI) or sham injury (craniotomy only) CD-1 mice were implanted with epidural electroencephalography (EEG) and nuchal electromyography (EMG) electrodes. Acute (1st week) and chronic (months 1, 2 or 3) 1-week long video EEG recordings were performed after the injury to examine epileptiform activity. High amplitude interictal events were extracted from EEG using an automated method. After scoring sleep-wake patterns, sleep spindles and EEG delta power were derived from non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep epochs. Brain CTs (computerized tomography) were performed in sham and CCI cohorts to quantify the brain lesions. We then employed a no craniotomy (NC) control to perform 1-week long EEG recordings at week 1 and month 1 after surgery.

Results: Posttraumatic seizures were seen in CCI group only, whereas interictal epileptiform activity was seen in CCI or sham. Sleep-wake disruptions consisted of shorter wake or NREM bout lengths and shorter duration or lower power for spindles in CCI and sham. NREM EEG delta power increased in CCI and sham groups compared to NC though CCI group with post-traumatic seizures had lower power at a chronic time point compared to those without. Follow up brain CTs showed a small lesion in the sham injury group suggesting a milder form of TBI that may account for their interictal activity and sleep changes.

Significance: In our TBI model, tracking changes in NREM delta power distinguishes CCI acutely and animals that will eventually develop PTE, but further work is necessary to identify sleep biomarkers of PTE. Employing NC controls together with sham controls should be considered in future TBI studies.

Inhibiting Epileptic Activity in the Brain

Abstract, originally published in Neurobiology of Disease featuring the work of CURE Grantee Dr. Jeffrey Loeb

Epileptic seizures often originate in small, localized areas of the brain where neurons abnormally fire in unison. These electrical impulses disrupt proper brain functioning and cause seizures. But what makes regions where seizures start different from parts of the brain where electrical impulses remain normal? More importantly, what prevents these epileptic centers from growing?

The answer to these questions may lie in a new discovery by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago. In non-CURE funded work, CURE Grantee Dr. Jeffrey Loeb and his colleagues found that a protein — called DUSP4 — was increased in healthy brain tissue directly adjacent to epileptic tissue. Their research suggests that boosting levels of DUSP4 could be a novel way of preventing or treating epilepsy.

Their findings are reported in the journal Neurobiology of Disease.

“If epileptic brain regions spread throughout the brain with nothing to stop them, the seizures would overwhelm the brain, it would not be survivable,” said Loeb, UIC professor and head of neurology and rehabilitation at the College of Medicine and corresponding author on the study. “We wondered if there were natural ways that epileptic brain areas are quarantined. We searched for genes at the border between epileptic and normal brain tissue that may help prevent the spread of epilepsy.”

Study Finds That Psychotherapy via Telehealth Is a Viable Treatment Option for Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures (PNES)

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsia

Objective: Previous studies have shown the effectiveness of manual-based treatment for psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES), but access to mental health care still remains a problem, especially for patients living in areas without medical professionals who treat conversion disorder. Thus, we evaluated patients treated with cognitive behavioral therapy–informed psychotherapy for seizures with clinical video telehealth (CVT). We evaluated neuropsychiatric and seizure treatment outcomes in veterans diagnosed with PNES seen remotely via telehealth. We hypothesized that seizures and comorbidities will improve with treatment.

Methods: This was a single–arm, prospective, observational, cohort, consecutive outpatient study. Patients with video–electroencephalography–confirmed PNES (n = 32) documented their seizure counts daily and comorbid symptoms prospectively over the course of treatment. Treatment was provided using a 12–session manual–based psychotherapy treatment given once per week, via CVT with a clinician at the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Results: The primary outcome, seizure reduction, was 46% (P = .0001) per month over the course of treatment. Patients also showed significant improvements in global functioning (Global Assessment of Functioning, P = < .0001), quality of life (Quality of Life in Epilepsy Inventory–31, P = .0088), and health status scales (Short Form 36 Health Survey, P < .05), and reductions in both depression (Beck Depression Inventory–II, P = .0028) and anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory, P = .0013) scores.

Significance: Patients with PNES treated remotely with manual-based seizure therapy decreased seizure frequency and comorbid symptoms and improved functioning using telehealth. These results suggest that psychotherapy via telehealth for PNES is a viable option for patients across the nation, eliminating one of the many barriers of access to mental health care.

Study Shows Novel Mobile Technology Improves Quality of Life for Adults with Epilepsy

In an externally-funded grant, CURE PTE Initiative investigators Dr. Jeffrey Loeb, Dr. Dilip Pandey, and Research Associate Jessica Levy investigate the ways technology can improve outcomes in individuals living with epilepsy

Abstract

Purpose: People with epilepsy (PWE) come from a wide variety of social backgrounds and educational skillsets, making self-management (SM) education for improving their condition challenging. Here, we evaluated whether a mobile technology-based personalized epilepsy SM education intervention, PAUSE to Learn Your Epilepsy (PAUSE), improves SM measures such as self-efficacy, epilepsy SM behaviors, epilepsy outcome expectations, quality of life (QoL), and personal impact of epilepsy in adults with epilepsy.

Methods: Recruitment for the PAUSE study occurred from October 2015 to March 2019. Ninety-one PWE were educated using an Internet-enabled computer tablet application that downloads custom, patient-specific educational programs from Epilepsy.com. Validated self-reported questionnaires were used for outcome measures. Participants were assessed at baseline (T0), the first follow-up at completion of the PWE-paced 8–12-week SM education intervention (T1), and the second follow-up at least 3 months after the first follow-up (T2).

Results: The study population was diverse and included individuals with a wide variety of SM educational needs and abilities. The median time for the first follow-up assessment (T1) was approximately 4 months following the baseline (T0) and 8 months following baseline for the second follow-up assessment (T2). Participants showed significant improvement in all SM behaviors, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, QOL, and personal impact of epilepsy measures from T0 to T1. Participants who scored lower at baseline tended to show greater improvement at T1. Similarly, results showed that participant improvement was sustained in most SM measures from T1 to T2.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that a mobile technology-based personalized SM intervention is feasible to implement. The results provide evidence that epilepsy SM behavior and practices, QoL, outcome expectation for epilepsy treatment and management, self-efficacy, and outcome expectation and impact of epilepsy significantly improve following a personalized SM education intervention. This underscores a greater need for a pragmatic trial to test the effectiveness of personalized SM education, such as PAUSE to Learn Your Epilepsy, in broader settings specifically for the unique needs of the hard-to-reach and hard-to-treat population of PWE.

Assessing the Personal Impact of Epilepsy in a Population-Based Cohort of Veterans

PURPOSE:

Epilepsy impacts patient lives in multidimensional ways. Although previous work has investigated epilepsy impact on health status, little is known about the overall quantified impact of epilepsy in Veterans. The goal of this study was to describe the impact of epilepsy on Veterans’ lives using the Personal Impact of Epilepsy Scale (PIES) and determine the patient and clinical characteristics most strongly correlated with epilepsy impact. The researchers described cohort characteristics and developed regression models to determine which characteristics were most strongly associated with PIES subscale (seizure, medication, comorbidity) scores and quality of life (QOL).

RESULTS:

Approximately 36% of those who were invited responded to the survey. Of the 438 respondents included in the analyses, roughly 50% were aged 45-64 years (35% >65; 14% 18-44); 19% were women. Almost 90% had previously received care by an epilepsy specialist, 37% of which was in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and 38% in both VHA and community. The PIES overall and subscale scores were significantly lower for older Veterans with epilepsy (VWE) (>65) compared with younger (18-44 years) and middle-aged (45-64 years) VWE, indicating that older Veterans had a lower epilepsy impact overall, and for seizures, medication, and comorbidity.

The younger and middle-aged VWE had a significantly higher proportion with psychiatric diagnosis compared with older VWE. There was a trend for significance for the overall PIES scores by gender, with women having total higher (worse) scores (mean = 93.10, SD = 69.68) than men (mean = 74.39, SD = 59.97), which was driven by a statistically higher score on the seizure subscale for women (mean = 27.66, SD = 27.97) compared with men (mean = 9.29, SD 25.35). Regression models revealed that frequent seizures (>1/month, >2/month) and diagnoses of dementia significantly predicted higher (more negative) Seizure Severity PIES score. Frequent seizures (>1/month), number of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), and diagnosis of dementia predicted negative impact, and older age predicted positive impact for medication subscale. Frequent seizures (>1/month) and diagnoses of depression and dementia predicted negative mood and social impact. Seizure frequency (>2/month) was the only variable that significantly predicted lack of excellent quality of life. Effects for gender were not significant after controlling for other variables.

CONCLUSIONS:

Findings were similar to a prior study of generic health outcomes in younger and older VWE using the 36-Item Short Form Survey (SF-36). Seizure frequency was consistently associated with negative impact of epilepsy in all age groups. While dementia and other diagnosed health conditions also contributed to epilepsy impact, older VWE (veterans with epilepsy) had significantly lower PIES (Personal Impact of Epilepsy Scale) scores even after controlling for physical conditions and dementia. Lower (better) scores for comorbidity and medication scales in older VWE may be due to fewer diagnosed psychiatric comorbidities and psychiatric medication that have similar cognitive impact as AEDs (antiepileptic drugs), and which may also interact with AEDs. Implementation of patient self-management programs to improve seizure control may reduce epilepsy impact for Veterans and reduce Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare utilization. The PIES may also be useful to measure outcomes of self-management interventions.

Study Looks at Risk Factors for Post-Traumatic Epilepsy in Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury Patients

In a pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) population treated in an intensive care unit (ICU), researchers identified the clinical and radiological risk factors correlated with posttraumatic epilepsy (PTE). Between 2003 and 2013, the Finnish Intensive Care Consortium database were used to identify pediatric (<18 years) TBI patients treated in four academic university hospital ICUs in Finland. Utilizing multivariable logistic regression modeling, the risk factors associated with PTE were evaluated. Fifty-nine patients developed PTE of the 290 included in the study. Findings suggested that PTE is a common long?term complication after ICU?treated pediatric TBI.

An increased risk of PTE is associated with higher age, moderate severity of injury, obliterated suprasellar cisterns, seizures during ICU stay and surgical care.

Repurposed Molecules for Antiepileptogenesis: Missing an Opportunity to Prevent Epilepsy?

Prevention of epilepsy is a great unmet need. Acute central nervous system (CNS) insults such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), cerebrovascular accidents (CVA), and CNS infections account for 15%-20% of all epilepsy. Following TBI and CVA, there is a latency of days to years before epilepsy develops. This allows treatment to prevent or modify post-injury epilepsy. No such treatment exists. In animal models of acquired epilepsy, a number of medications in clinical use for diverse indications have been shown to have antiepileptogenic or disease-modifying effects, including medications with excellent side effect profiles. However, except for vigabatrin, there have been almost no translation studies to prevent or modify epilepsy using these potentially “repurposable” medications. Doctors may be missing an opportunity to develop preventive treatment for epilepsy by not evaluating these medications clinically.

One reason for the lack of translation studies is that the preclinical data for most of these medications are disparate in terms of types of injury, models within different injury type, dosing, injury – treatment initiation latencies, treatment duration, and epilepsy outcome evaluation mode and duration. This makes it difficult to compare the relative strength of antiepileptogenic evidence across the molecules, and difficult to determine which drug(s) would be the best to evaluate clinically. Furthermore, most preclinical antiepileptogenic studies lack information needed for translation, such as dose – blood level relationship, brain target engagement, and dose-response, and many use treatment parameters that cannot be applied clinically, for example, treatment initiation before or at the time of injury and dosing higher than tolerated human equivalent dosing.

Here, this research team reviews animal and human antiepileptogenic evidence for these medications. The team highlights the knowledge gaps for each molecule that need to be filled in order to consider clinical translation, and we suggest a platform of preclinical antiepileptogenesis evaluation of potentially repurposable molecules or their combinations going forward.

CURE Initiative: Defending Against Post-Traumatic Epilepsy

A graphic which states, "CURE and the Department of Defense. From 2000-2019, over 400,000 US service members were diagnosed with a TBI."Post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) is a seizure disorder resulting from injury to the brain. It is a devastating complication of traumatic brain injury (TBI), which can occur as a result of car accidents, sports-related injuries, or military combat. PTE can develop weeks, months, or even years after TBI, offering a window of opportunity for interventions to prevent seizures. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to predict who will develop epilepsy following TBI, and there are no therapies to prevent it.

CURE’s collaborative, multi-investigator PTE research program aims to develop better models to study PTE and discover methods to predict who is at risk as a way to intervene early and prevent PTE. With a $10 million grant from the US Department of Defense, this initiative brings together leading scientists in the field from around the world. This groundbreaking initiative, which launched in 2018, involves six primary investigators and their research teams for a total of over 60 scientists. To further encourage collaboration and scientific rigor, CURE has contracted with the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging (LONI) at the University of Southern California to create a database to house data from the teams and make it accessible for cross-comparison and analysis.

These teams are enhancing knowledge about PTE by researching what changes occur in the brain, as well as by developing robust animal models to study PTE. In addition, the researchers are investigating how different types of head injury can contribute to seizure onset and occurrence, and they are identifying potential EEG, MRI, or blood biomarkers to predict PTE in humans.

One exciting, ongoing PTE project is led by Dr. Jeffrey Loeb of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Loeb’s team project will focus on a type of bleeding commonly caused by TBI called subarachnoid hemorrhage. This kind of bleeding occurs when there is blood between the brain and the protective tissue surrounding the brain. By studying both rat models and in-patient instances of subarachnoid hemorrhage, Dr. Loeb’s data-driven approach will hopefully lead to methods or guidelines to help doctors take steps to prevent the development of epilepsy. Check out our recent interview with him to learn more.

We’ve also seen significant achievements over the course of the past two years. These includes a publication from Dr. Harald Sontheimer’s team at Virginia Tech University on a new mouse model for PTE,1 and a manuscript in preparation by Dr. Victoria Johnson’s team at the University of Pennsylvania on neuropathology in humans after TBI. The investigators have presented abstracts of their work at scientific meetings including the 2019 National Neurotrauma Society meeting in Pittsburgh, PA and the 2019 American Epilepsy Society Meeting in Baltimore, MD.

This collaborative, team-science approach has the potential to develop innovative ways to study PTE, build understanding of the neural mechanisms behind PTE, and ultimately help us understand who is at the greatest risk. This research can pave the way for the development of therapies to prevent and/or treat PTE, having a positive impact on the lives of all affected by TBI and PTE.

1 Shandra O., Robel S. Inducing Post-Traumatic Epilepsy in a Mouse Model of Repetitive Diffuse Traumatic Brain Injury. J Vis Exp. 2020 Feb 10;(156)

Learn More about PTE

Mike and Kim Adamle smiling as they are being interviewed for an episode of Seizing Life, a CURE podcast

Podcast: Former football star and broadcaster Mike Adamle discusses developing and managing PTE resulting from sports injuries.

Watch or Listen Now

Woman sitting at a laptop participating in a CURE webinar.

Webinar: Watch a free webinar on what triggers seizures in people who sustain traumatic brain injury.

Watch Now

Dr. Graffman being interviewed by Kelly Cervantes, CURE Board Member and Seizing Life podcast host.

Podcast: Explore the relationship between TBI and PTE, particularly in Vietnam veterans, in this Seizing Life podcast episode.

Watch or Listen Now

Woman standing in a research lab wearing a white coat with her back to the camera.

CURE Discovery: Discover the results of an innovative CURE-funded study aiming to find a way to prevent PTE.

Learn More

Epilepsy Research Findings: March 2020

This month’s research highlights feature promising work by former CURE Grantees and CURE partners.

Former CURE Grantee Dr. Kristina Simeone’s recent research has uncovered a potential predictive biomarker for Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). Dr. Simeone’s work was supported by the Benninghoven family in memory of Cameron Benninghoven.

We also feature research by another former CURE Grantee, Dr. Angelique Bordey, who along with her research team published exciting findings showing that targeting a particular protein in the brain can reduce or prevent seizures in mouse models of difficult-to-treat epilepsy.

We are also highlighting research by Dr. Daniel Correa and his work through the EpiBioS4Rx Public Engagement Core, a project in which CURE participates. Dr. Correa’s research indicates that greater efforts should be made to ensure online epilepsy health education materials are more easily understandable to the general population to increase epilepsy literacy.

These findings, as well as others, can be found below:

Research Discoveries & News

  • SUDEP: Research featuring the work of former CURE Grantee Dr. Kristina Simeone found a potential time-based biomarker of impending SUDEP. Dr. Simeone found cardiac and respiratory dysfunction that changed over time in mice at risk for SUDEP and may serve as a biomarker to indicate who is at risk for SUDEP. She also found that this dysfunction could be lessened by blocking a particular type of receptor in the brain, the orexin receptorLearn More

    This research was supported by the Benninghoven family in memory of Cameron Benninghoven.

  • Uncontrolled Epilepsy Treatment: Former CURE Grantee Dr. Angelique Bordey and her research team utilized an experimental drug to reduce seizures in mouse models of tuberous sclerosis complex (a rare genetic epilepsy) and a subset of focal cortical dysplasia type II (a brain malformation causing epilepsy). The team found that seizures can be prevented or reduced by targeting a protein called actin-cross linking protein filament A which is often elevated in the brains of humans with these epilepsies. Learn More
  • Online Epilepsy Education: Researcher Dr. Daniel Correa found that the majority of online health education materials related to traumatic brain injury (TBI), epilepsy, and post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) do not meet the sixth-grade reading level recommendation from most health organizations. This study was published as part of the CURE-supported EpiBioS4Rx Public Engagement Core, an NINDS initiative focused on ensuring successful future clinical trials to prevent the development of PTE following TBI. This study suggests that improving the readability of health education materials may increase epilepsy-related health literacy, leading to more effective recruitment efforts for future clinical trials, as well as better patient-centered results. Learn More
  • New Treatment: Valtoco (diazepam), a nasal spray intended to treat seizure emergencies in patients 6 years of age and older, is now commercially available in the US. Learn More
  • Clinical Trial: Engage Therapeutics announced that its Phase 2b StATES study of Staccato® alprazolam, an orally inhaled therapy designed to terminate an active epileptic seizure, met its primary endpoint. This endpoint was a proportion of responders achieving cessation of seizure activity within two minutes of treatment administration and no recurrence within two hours. Learn More
  • Post-Traumatic Epilepsy: Research suggests that rats treated with certain drugs within a few days of a traumatic brain injury have a dramatically reduced risk of developing epilepsy later in life. Researchers found that suppressing an immune system receptor called Toll-like receptor 4 shortly after brain injury reduces seizure susceptibility and neuronal excitability in an important part of the brain called the hippocampus. Learn More
  • SCN8A Encephalopathy: A therapy that enables researchers to control gene expression in the brain, called antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), has been utilized to stop seizures in a mouse model of SCN8A encephalopathy, a rare childhood epilepsy. By using ASOs, researchers delayed seizure activity and increased the lifespan of these mice. Learn More

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