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Novel treatment strategies for epilepsy

A new EU-funded project aims to develop treatments for epilepsy by using viruses to infect brain cells and by transplanting cells into the brain. The project is called EPIXCHANGE and will be carried out at Lund University, Sweden, as a collaboration with Italian, Danish and French researchers. The total budget of the project is almost EUR 1 million.

Epilepsy is a devastating neurological disease affecting 50 million people worldwide. Patients with epilepsy run a higher risk of sudden unexpected death. In Sweden some 60 000 people suffer from epilepsy. Around 30-40% of epileptic patients are refractory to currently available pharmacological treatments, which are mostly symptomatic and often have side effects. Therefore there is a great unmet need to develop novel treatment strategies for epilepsy.

The new project will explore the development of encapsulated human cell lines producing the neurotransmitter galanin and/or the neuropeptide Y (NPY) and their effect on epileptic seizures in experimental animals. The project will also use viral vectors to deliver neuropeptides and other proteins neurotrophic factors into the brain to suppress seizures. These novel approaches will lay a foundation for developing alternative treatment strategies for epilepsy.

A viral vector approach to delivering genes of interest into the brain is already a reality. Several studies have already been performed in clinical settings in the US for Parkinson's disease. According to Professor Merab Kokaia of Lund University, the plan is to perform such clinical trials in Lund on patients with severe epilepsy that does not respond to drug treatment.

On 10 November 2012, the consortium is organising a workshop on Animal Models of Epilepsy in Lund. This workshop will discuss relevant models of epilepsy and translational aspects of the preclinical research. It is very important that the models that are used for basic research reflect human epilepsy, and that the treatments tested on animals will have translational value in order to develop these approaches towards clinical applications.

Contact: Professor Merab Kokaia
Lund University

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