£73k boost for Liverpool epilepsy research

Dr Simon Keller

Researchers from the University of Liverpool have been awarded a £73k grant from Epilepsy Research UK to help identify brain imaging biomarkers for drug treatment response in epilepsy.

Dr Simon Keller, from the University’s Institute Of Translational Medicine, has been awarded the grant to investigate whether or not it is possible to predict which patients will not respond to antiepileptic medication (AEDs).

The first line of treatment for people with epilepsy is AEDs. These drugs control seizures in 60% of patients, and the reason for why some patients continue to experience seizures despite treatment with AEDs is not known. If it is known which patients would not respond to AEDs from the point of diagnosis of epilepsy, it may be possible to explore alternative or adjunctive therapies in these patients. Currently there is no way of predicting which patients will respond to treatment.

Specialised MRI scans can be used to investigate how parts of the brain are connected i.e. how the brain is networked. Looking at networks is crucial in epilepsy as epileptic seizures arise because of abnormal brain networks. Brain networks can be looked at using MRI, which most people with epilepsy will receive as part of their standard care.

Using new network analyses, Dr Keller and his team aim to identify imaging markers of AED treatment outcome in people with epilepsy. This research could provide clinicians with important new information to counsel patients about the likeliness of treatment success with AEDs and potentially to consider alternative or adjunctive treatment options from an earlier stage in those patients who are likely not to respond.

Dr Keller, said: “Clearly it is important to start treatment for epilepsy as soon as possible and with between 30-40% of patients who fail to have seizures controlled with conventional drug therapy, it would be helpful to know which people may require alternative or adjunctive therapies.

“Using new analyses of MRI scans which show how the brain is networked we hope to identify imaging markers of AED treatment outcome in people with epilepsy.”

The funding announcement was made at Epilepsy Research UK’s annual reception held at the Royal Society this month.

More information about this award can be found here and here.

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