Breakthrough in the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy
22 November 2012
Researchers at the UCL Institute of Neurology have made a breakthrough in the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy. They used gene therapy in an experimental model of epilepsy to allow over-excitable neurons to be inhibited by light. When they shone a laser via an optical fibre into the epileptic brain region where the gene therapy was delivered, the seizures were rapidly suppressed. For long-term treatment they used a different gene therapy to make neurons in the epileptic brain regions less excitable. This treatment both prevented the development of epilepsy, and also progressively stopped seizures when delivered after epilepsy was already established. These treatments had no detectable effects on normal behaviour. Although at an early stage, these new treatments could eventually be used in people with epilepsy that cannot be controlled by medication and where the site of initiation of the seizures can be defined using high-resolution electrical mapping.