Researcher Update: September 2021

In this month’s update I want to invite you to join us on Friday, September 17th at 7pm CT for Unite to CURE Epilepsy. Our free virtual fundraising event highlights the incredibly critical work that you do that gives people with epilepsy and their loved ones hope that advancements in science are on the horizon and that there will be new discoveries that will change their lives.  

This inspirational event will feature promising updates from researchers, including colleagues that have been funded by CURE Epilepsy, moving stories from the epilepsy community, and amazing guests. 

The event is free to all. It is through the money raised at this event that we are able to fund our grants to epilepsy researchers. To share in the evening, please register here.

In this month’s Researcher Update you’ll also find information on:  


The September 17th deadline to apply for CURE Epilepsy COVID-19 Research Continuity Fund is fast approaching. 

The CURE Epilepsy COVID-19 Research Continuity Fund will provide reimbursements of up to $15,000 for research-related expenses incurred because of institutional shutdowns during the pandemic and for which institutional support was not available or provided. This award is available to early-stage career investigators.  

This program is made possible through a generous gift from the Cotton Family in honor of Vivian Cotton.  

KEY DATES:

  • Request for Applications Open: Open Now!
  • End of Application Submission Period: This Friday, September 17, 2021, 9pm ET

Learn more and apply »


AES is accepting applications for the Sergievsky Award for Epilepsy Health Equity and Diversity through January 14, 2022. 

The Sergievsky award provides support for early-career physicians and scientists who are members of underrepresented communities, with preference for Black or African American candidates. The award’s goal is to facilitate launching these individuals’ careers into leadership in academic clinical research in the field of epilepsy. 

The award provides: 

  • $75,000 per year for two years of support (for a total award of $150,000) 
  • Two years of complimentary AES membership 
  • Complimentary registration to the two AES Annual Meetings that occur during the award period 

Learn more and apply »

First Specific Drug Therapy for a Severe Early Form of Epilepsy

Press release, originally published in Science Translational Medicine (2021)

Medicine used to treat multiple sclerosis also helps in a rare form of genetic epilepsy – drug precisely targets underlying genetic defect

Epilepsy comes in a variety of forms. Those affected by a genetically determined variety have severe epileptic seizures as early as the first year of life. The disease is accompanied by severe developmental disorders: it is difficult for them to walk, they have difficulty concentrating and later have problems with speech, spelling and calculations. Until now, this form of epilepsy has been difficult to treat with the usual drugs. Researchers from Tübingen have now used a drug for the first time that is actually approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. It directly counteracts the underlying genetic defect and successfully alleviates the symptoms of the patients, reports the team led by Dr. Ulrike Hedrich-Klimosch, Dr. Stephan Lauxmann and Prof. Dr. Holger Lerche from the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, the University Hospital and the University of Tübingen. This implies that for the first time, affected children and adults will have access to a pharmacological treatment. The results have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The cause of this form of early childhood epilepsy is a rare genetic defect. Mutations in the KCNA2 gene lead to defective potassium channels in the brain. “Potassium channels are small pores located in the cell membrane of nerve cells and are important for the transmission of electrical signals,” explains first author and biologist Hedrich-Klimosch. “In some subtypes of the disease, the mutations lead to increased activity of the channel. In these cases, we speak of a gain-of-function mutation.”

For the first time, the research team utilized a therapy medication that specifically targets this point. “In this case, a cause-related therapy must inhibit the increased channel activity,” explains co-first author and neurologist Lauxmann. “One such channel blocker is the active substance 4-aminopyridine. It specifically inhibits the overactivity of the potassium channels and is the active compound of a drug approved for the treatment of gait disorders in multiple sclerosis patients.” In cooperation with eight other centers worldwide, the team treated eleven patients in n-of-1 trials with the drug. The results were encouraging: The symptoms improved in nine of them. “The number of daily epileptic seizures was reduced or disappeared completely. The patients were generally much more alert and mentally fitter in everyday life. Their speech also improved after starting the drug treatment.”

The drug does not work for all subtypes of the disease. In some cases, the gene mutation leads to restricted activity of the potassium channels. The researchers have created a database so that doctors can quickly decide whether the drug can help a patient with a newly diagnosed KCNA2 gene defect or not. It lists the different mutations from the KCNA gene family and the associated effects on the potassium channel. In this way, a therapy can be started quickly and the often severe course of the disease can be alleviated.

Research Aims to Reduce the Loss of Speech and Language in Epilepsy Patients

Article, originally published in News Medical

New research aims to shed light on reducing the loss of speech and language in epilepsy patients who require brain surgery to manage the condition.

Epilepsy affects more than 250,000 Australians with one third requiring surgery to remove the brain tissue causing seizures.

Mater Hospital Centre for Neurosciences neurologist Dr Lisa Gillinder said the research would help reduce the risk of damage during surgery to areas of the brain that are responsible for speech, movement, vision and other functions.

The research is a joint project by Mater Hospital Advanced Epilepsy Unit, Queensland University of Technology and University of Queensland and will study people who have epilepsy as well as those who do not have the condition to improve understanding about the speech areas of the brain.

Deputy Director of Herston Imaging Research Facility and QUT Professor Katie McMahon believes patients with epilepsy already had different function in the speech region of the brain, caused by the impact of ongoing seizures.

“The research will allow us to test this theory,” Professor McMahon said. “We are also hoping to identify how (magnetic resonance imaging) MRI scans can be best used to assess language function in people with epilepsy when planning for surgery.

“Overall, the goal is to improve treatment for people with epilepsy and gain clearer information about the risks and benefits of surgery.”

Researcher Update: August 2021

In this month’s update, you’ll find information on:


CURE Epilepsy is Accepting Requests for Support for our Frontiers in Research Seminar Series Through August 13

CURE Epilepsy is accepting requests for research seminar support through August 13, 2021. The goal of CURE Epilepsy’s Frontiers in Research Seminar Series program is to expose researchers, clinicians, and students to exciting epilepsy research and provide opportunities for young investigators to interact with leaders in the field.

The Frontiers in Research Seminar Series is made possible through the generous support of the Nussenbaum-Vogelstein family.

Learn more and apply »


CURE Epilepsy is Accepting Applications for our COVID-19 Research Continuity Fund Through September 17

The CURE Epilepsy COVID-19 Research Continuity Fund will provide reimbursements of up to $15,000 for research-related expenses incurred as a result of institutional shutdowns during the pandemic and for which institutional support was not available or provided. This award is available to early-stage career investigators.

This program is made possible through a gift from the Cotton Family in honor of Vivian Cotton.

KEY DATES:

  • Request for Applications Open: Open Now!
  • End of Application Submission Period: Friday, September 17, 2021, 9pm ET

Learn more and apply »


ILAE COVID-19 and Epilepsy Award – New Submissions Open and Being Accepted Through August 31

ILAE is offering awards for COVID-19 and epilepsy projects, with one prize available per region. The ILAE COVID-19 and Epilepsy Research Award is for the best research focused on COVID-19 and epilepsy undertaken (published or in press) during the pandemic.

The award is open to all, and early career researchers are strongly encouraged to apply.

To be considered, please send your research reference (one article only is requested) and affiliation to covid@ilae.org. Applications are due before August 31, 2021.

Check here to see the 2020 winners of the ILAE COVID-19 and Epilepsy Research Award.

Learn more »

Epilepsy Research News: July 2021

This month I would like to highlight an editorial authored by myself and several colleagues discussing the critical needs for epilepsy research identified during the 2021 Curing the Epilepsies Conference. These needs include integrating epilepsy care and research and reducing health disparities for underserved communities. Key to these transformative changes is the development of a National Plan that would accelerate the goal of improving quality of life and developing cures for every person touched by epilepsy.

Next, we report the work of several CURE Epilepsy grantees and members of CURE Epilepsy’s Post-Traumatic Epilepsy Initiative. This publication, authored by Dr. Annamaria Vezzani, Dr. Teresa Ravizza, Rossella Di Sapia, and colleagues, investigates the role of microglia, a type of “immune” cell for the brain, in acquired epilepsy. This research suggests that interfering with the increase in microglia that is associated with acquired epilepsy may improve epilepsy outcomes.

We also feature an editorial from David Axelrod, husband of CURE Epilepsy founder Susan Axelrod, in which he writes that his daughter Lauren “faces another battle, not with epilepsy or the toll it’s taken, but with policy changes that could deny her and others with intellectual disabilities the life they choose in concert with their families and loved ones.”

This month’s news also features the development of new molecules from resin with promising properties as possible drugs against epilepsy. Researchers found that these molecules had an antiseizure effect in zebrafish larvae.

Summaries of these research discoveries and more can be found below.

Research Discoveries

  • Advancing Research Toward Epilepsy Cures: A new publication reviews outcomes from the 2021 Curing the Epilepsies Conference, which brought together patient advocacy organizations including CURE Epilepsy, researchers, and clinicians to discuss priorities that could significantly advance research toward cures and improved health outcomes for people with epilepsy. Critical needs for advancing epilepsy research include integrating epilepsy care and research, reducing health disparities for underserved communities and improving measurement and tracking of patient outcomes. The authors report that key to driving these transformative priorities is the development of a National Plan that would put the nation on a path to developing cures and improving the quality of life for every person touched by epilepsy. Learn more
  • Understanding Acquired Epilepsy: Researchers have found a way in which an increase in microglia (a type of immune cell for the brain) plays a role in different ‘phases’ of epilepsy. Using an animal model of acquired epilepsy, the researchers found that an increase in microglia during the early phases of epilepsy development contributes to degeneration of neurons in the brain, whereas increases in microglia after the development of epilepsy contributes to seizures. The authors suggest that interfering with increases in microglia may offer a potential target for improving acquired epilepsy. Learn more
  • Opinion Piece: When It Comes to People Like My Daughter, One Size Does Not Fit All: By David Axelrod. My daughter, Lauren, turned 40 last month. She is happy and healthy. And that is nothing short of a miracle. Today, Lauren faces another battle, not with epilepsy or the toll it’s taken, but with policy changes that could deny her and others with intellectual disabilities the life they choose in concert with their families and loved ones. The issue is federal Medicaid funding to states, which helps underwrite residential facilities for people with intellectual disabilities, and the conviction of some advocates and policymakers that larger settings like Misericordia, where Lauren lives, should be discouraged. Learn more
  • “Big Data” to Improve Pediatric Seizure Control: Researchers have demonstrated how to use standardized reporting of clinical data for seizures, providing fundamental information to determine what methods work best for keeping seizures under control. To help standardize how clinical data is recorded at epilepsy visits, the team of researchers began using common data elements (standardized key information that can be collected across studies) to ensure that relevant data is captured in a comparable way across studies and clinical visits. The study provides fundamental data that will serve as the foundation for treating individuals with epilepsy to achieve the best patient-centered outcomes possible. Learn more.
  • New Drug from Resin to Combat Epileptic Seizures: Researchers have developed new molecules with promising properties to become possible drugs against epilepsy. This research centers around a potassium ion channel found in the brain that plays an important role in epilepsy. The researchers have shown that several of the new resin acid molecules can open the channel and produce an antiseizure effect in zebrafish larvae. The scientists are now continuing to work towards a detailed understanding of how the resin acid molecules affect ion channels, and how they can be improved and developed as drugs. Learn more

Researcher Update: July 2021

In this month’s update, you’ll find information on:


CURE Epilepsy is Accepting Applications for our COVID-19 Research Continuity Fund Beginning August 2

The CURE Epilepsy COVID-19 Research Continuity Fund will provide reimbursements of up to $15,000 for research-related expenses incurred as a result of institutional shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and for which institutional support was not available or provided. This award is available to early-stage career investigators.

This program is made possible through a gift from the Cotton Family in honor of Vivian Cotton.

KEY DATES:
Request for Applications Open: Monday, August 2, 2021
End of Application Submission Period: Friday, September 17, 2021, 9pm ET

Learn More >>


CURE Epilepsy is Accepting Requests for Support for our Frontiers in Research Seminar Series Through July 30

CURE Epilepsy is accepting requests for research seminar support through July 30, 2021. The goal of CURE Epilepsy’s Frontiers in Research Seminar Series program is to expose researchers, clinicians, and students to exciting epilepsy research and provide opportunities for young investigators to interact with leaders in the field.

The Frontiers in Research Seminar Series is made possible through the generous support of the Nussenbaum-Vogelstein family.

Learn More and Apply >>


Cures Within Reach Accepting RFPs for Underrepresented Groups Through July 30

The deadline for the Cures Within Reach (CWR) Request for Proposals (RFP) for US-based underrepresented racial / ethnic minority primary investigators (PIs) is July 30, 2021. This funding opportunity is part of CWR’s new Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) community. At least 3 grants will be awarded for clinical repurposing trials.  Reach out with any questions to Clare Thibodeaux, PhD, Director of Scientific Affairs, clare@cureswithinreach.org. More info about all of CWR open DEI RFPs available at https://bit.ly/cwrrfps.

Learn More >>


PAME Neuroscientist Networking Event on July 30

Are you a clinical or basic science researcher working on mortality in epilepsy, including SUDEP? Join Partners Against Mortality in Epilepsy (PAME) for a virtual neuroscientist networking event on Friday, July 30, 2021.

Sign up using an abstract from a recent meeting or a general description of your research interests by July 28, 2021, then review abstracts and indicate which participants you would like to meet. The virtual meeting platform will create an optimal schedule of meetings, maximize the level of interest of each match-up, and arrange your schedule for the session on July 30, 2021.

Register >>


NINDS Announces Two New Funding Opportunities – Expected Application Due Date October 21, 2021

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is planning to publish a pair of funding opportunities to develop a new online educational resource to improve training in experimental rigor. Experts in educational technology, pedagogy, educational media production, and rigorous biomedical research are encouraged to apply. Additional details will be available in the full Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) that are expected to be published in the next few weeks, which you will be able to find in the NIH Guide.

Potential applicants may contact devon.crawford@nih.gov in the NINDS Office of Research Quality for more information.

Learn More >>


STXBP1 Foundation Is Hiring a Scientific Director

The STXBP1 Foundation’s Scientific Director position will be responsible for overseeing and advancing all scientific efforts for the organization, as well as research supported by the organization, including scouting potential research funding and evaluating proposals. Other key duties include research coordination, community outreach, and scientific outreach.

Learn More >>

Spike and Wave Discharges and Fast Ripples During Posttraumatic Epileptogenesis

Abstract, published in Epilepsia

Objective: The goal of the present study was to determine whether spike and wave discharges (SWDs) and SWDs with superimposed fast ripples (SWDFRs) could be biomarkers of posttraumatic epileptogenesis.

Methods: Fluid percussion injury was conducted on 13–14-week old male Sprague Dawley rats. Immediately after traumatic brain injury (TBI), they were implanted with microelectrodes in the neocortex, hippocampus, and striatum bilaterally. Age-matched sham rats with the same electrode implantation montage acted as controls. Wideband brain electrical activity was recorded intermittently from Day 1 of TBI, and continued from 2 to 21 weeks after TBI. SWD and SWDFR analysis was performed during the first 2 weeks to investigate whether the occurrence of this pattern predicted development of epilepsy. The remaining 3–21 weeks were used for identifying which rats became epileptic (E+ group) and which did not (E- group).

Results: The E+ group (n = 9) showed a significant increase in SWD rate in prefrontal cortex during Weeks 1 and 2 after TBI. The E- group showed a significant increase in SWD rate only in the second week. One hundred percent of rats in the E+ group displayed SWDFRs beginning from the first week after TBI. The SWDFR pattern was observed in all recorded brain areas: prefrontal and perilesional cortices, hippocampus, and striatum. None of rats in the E- group showed coexistence of fast ripples with SWDs.

Significance: Occurrence of superimposed fast ripples after TBI, but not an increase in the rate of spike and wave discharges, could be a noninvasive electroencephalographic biomarker of posttraumatic epileptogenesis.

Researcher Update: June 2021

In this month’s update, you’ll find information on:


Deadline to Submit Letters of Intent for a CURE Epilepsy Catalyst Award is June 30, 2021

The deadline for CURE Epilepsy Catalyst Award grant Letters of Intent is fast approaching. This funding opportunity is available to researchers at non-academic research institutions, including small biotechnology companies, and those at universities who seek to develop new interventions for epilepsy. Applicants with academic appointments must be at or above the level of Assistant Professor. International applicants are invited to apply as well. Grant requests may be made for up to $250,000, paid over 2 years.

FUNDING CYCLE:

Letter of Intent deadline: Wednesday, June 30, 2021, 9 PM ET
Full proposal invitations: Friday, August 6, 2021
Full proposal deadline: Friday, September 10, 2021, 9 PM ET
Anticipated awardee notification: December 2021-January 2022
Anticipated award start date: March 2022

Learn More >>


Requests for CURE Epilepsy-Sponsored Research Seminars – Applications Due July 30, 2021

Bring innovative epilepsy researchers and cutting-edge science to your institution this fall by hosting a CURE Epilepsy Frontiers in Research Seminar! The purpose of these seminars is to expose researchers, clinicians, and students to exciting epilepsy research and provide opportunities for young investigators to interact with leaders in the field.

The CURE Epilepsy Frontiers in Research Seminar series is generously supported by the Nussenbaum-Vogelstein Family.

Learn More and Apply >>


Xlerat-ing IDeAs Conference: Experiences from the Southeast on June 23-24, 2021

The XLerat-ing IDeAs Conference: Experiences from the Southeast will provide important insights on applying for small business grants through the NIH, National Science Foundation (NSF), and other governmental agencies. This virtual conference is intended to help inform and inspire those who are interested in or plan to submit for an upcoming small business innovation research/small business technology transfer (SBIR/STTR) solicitation.

Learn More >>


Workshop: From Brain to Bedside: Translation of Next-Generation Circuit Therapies on June 29-30, 2021

The Translation of Next-Generation Circuit Therapies Workshop will focus on the use of innovative and novel tools, which includes optogenetics, chemogenetics, and gene editing, as well as cutting-edge approaches to neuromodulation. Sessions will discuss existing approaches to circuit manipulation, advances in gene therapy approaches, and how they may inform future CNS circuit therapies.

Registration for this virtual workshop is free and now open.

Register >>

 

Anxiety of Families After First Unprovoked or First Febrile Seizure – A Prospective, Randomized Pilot Study

Abstract, published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objectives: Parents of children with a first unprovoked seizure report high levels of stress and anxiety. Little is known however about interventions that might help to reduce anxiety. We aimed to evaluate anxiety of parents and children after a first unprovoked seizure and assess the anxiety-reducing effect of a semi-structured follow-up in a first seizure clinic (FSC). In comparison, parents of children with febrile seizures are also evaluated, as an example of anxiety evolution without follow-up intervention after provoked seizures.

Study design: In this prospective, interventional study, patients presenting with a first unprovoked seizure were randomized to early care (EC) with follow-up in FSC within 3 weeks and late care (LC), follow-up in FSC after 4 months. Anxiety levels of parents and patients were scored with the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) after the initial seizure (T0), 3 and 12 months (T1, T2). To assess the effect of the semi-structured follow-up, anxiety scores were compared between the two groups at baseline, at T1 (i.e., after intervention in EC but prior to intervention in LC) and at T2. Parents of children with febrile seizures (FS) were prospectively followed up without intervention.

Results: Fifty two patients were included (EC n = 18, LC n = 18, FS n = 15). Initial state anxiety in parents was high in all groups. At T1 (i. e. after intervention in EC but not LC) state anxiety was significantly higher in LC (52.2 (16.7) vs. 33.3 (5.3), p < 0.01). This effect persisted after 12 months, despite intervention in LC in the meantime (39.0 (11.7) vs. 28.8 (6.2); p < 0.01)). The effect in children was similar (T1: 40.6 (8.3) vs. 29.8 (5.1); p < 0.05 and T2: 33.5 (4.7) vs. 24.7 (3.6); p < 0.01). State anxiety in FS decreased within 3 months without intervention (50.0 (14.5) to 33.7 (9.2)).

Conclusions: A timely and structured follow-up in a first seizure clinic offers effective and sustained reduction of anxiety-levels after first unprovoked seizure in children. In contrast, anxiety after a first febrile seizure decreases over time without additional intervention.

Epilepsy Research News: June 2021

This month’s research news includes findings from CURE Epilepsy Post-Traumatic Epilepsy (PTE) Initiative member Dr. Elisa Zanier and colleagues, who have conducted a detailed characterization of a mouse model of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that they hope can be used to help pinpoint who is at risk for PTE following TBI. The findings from a study by former CURE Epilepsy grantee Dr. Scott Baraban and colleagues examining catastrophic childhood epilepsies using zebrafish with genetic mutations is also highlighted below.

We further report advances on potential ways to predict sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) risk based on information routinely gathered in clinical visits. Though this research is still in the preliminary phase, the researchers hope this method will make clinical discussions regarding SUDEP more targeted and useful.

Summaries of these research discoveries and more can be found below.

Research Discoveries

  • In-Depth Characterization of a Mouse Model of Post-Traumatic Epilepsy (PTE) (Featuring the research of several members of CURE Epilepsy’s PTE Initiative, including Dr. Elisa Zanier): A team of researchers featuring several members of CURE Epilepsy’s PTE Initiative, including Dr. Elisa Zanier, has recently characterized a mouse model of severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). The researchers state that their extensive characterization of this model provides a way to identify sensitive measures of epilepsy development that may be used to understand ways to predict PTE in high-risk TBI patients. Learn more
  • Understanding Childhood Epilepsy (Featuring the research of former CURE Epilepsy researcher Dr. Scott Baraban): Dr. Scott Baraban and colleagues have used zebrafish with genetic mutations to model human catastrophic childhood epilepsies, which are characterized by hard-to-treat seizures and are frequently associated with developmental delays. The team has created an open-source database containing information from this study and is offering these zebrafish lines as a resource to the neuroscience community, hoping they can lead to the identification of new therapies. Learn more
  • Improving Ways to Predict SUDEP Risk: A study has found that a particular type of data analysis called a Bayesian logistic regression model provides a more accurate prediction of risk for SUDEP than traditional population-based estimates. The study authors state that they developed and validated the first predictive model for individualized SUDEP risk, based on routine clinical information. Learn more
  • Rethinking Antiseizure Medication Use in Newborns: In a recent study, researchers observed no difference in developmental outcomes among children aged 24 months who had acute seizures in the hospital as newborns, regardless of whether or not antiseizure medication was stopped or continued after the children left the hospital once seizures ended. The authors concluded that the results support discontinuing antiseizure medication for most newborns with acute symptomatic seizures (seizures that are associated with an “insult” or injury to the central nervous system), so long as the seizures stop before the newborn is discharged from the hospital. Learn more.
  • Employer Toolkit to Support People with Epilepsy: A new Employer Toolkit has launched in the United Kingdom (UK) this week to better support people with epilepsy in the workplace. The new toolkit is designed to give employers the confidence to help staff with epilepsy. Please note, the UK has its own regulatory and employment laws which may not be applicable in the United States or other countries. Learn more