UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Grant for research into new epilepsy treatments

31 July 2009

Professor Matthew Walker (UCL Institute of Neurology) and Dr Robin Williams (Department of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London) have been awarded £415,234 by the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction to fund research into identifying new epilepsy treatments.

Epilepsy affects at least 40 million people worldwide, making it the most common serious neurological condition in humans. To date there have been rapid advancements in understanding how epilepsy occurs and in identifying new treatments using animal experimentation, but Professor Walker and Dr Willliams are aiming to advance our understanding of epilepsy using a different method of research.

Professor Walker said: “The approach we will be using is a novel and exciting way of identifying a whole new array of epilepsy treatments whilst minimising animal experimentation.”

Valproic acid (VPA) is one of the most widely prescribed drugs to treat epilepsy, but it is not clear how it works. Progress has already been made using the social amoeba Dictyostelium to identify bipolar disorder treatment targets in animals, and has improved our understanding of the cellular effects of the acid.

Dr Williams will use the amoeba Dictyostelium to probe further how VPA works on fundamental cellular pathways and then to identify new potential treatments. Professor Walker will then test these new treatments in the laboratory using in vitro models of seizure activity to identify the treatments that are potentially most effective in the treatment of epilepsy.

Image: The single-cell amoeba Dictyostelium can be used to replace animal cells in understanding the effects of epilepsy treatments

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