Research on epilepsy

Various lines of research are currently being followed to improve epilepsy treatment. 

 

1. New medication for patients with Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.

In June 2015, the third phase of a clinical trial of the active ingredient Cannabidiol, a marijuana extract, began in London. The aim of the trial is to develop a new drug for patients with Dravet Syndrome and it will also be carried out in a few months on patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. 

The trial will be carried out simultaneously in several European Community countries. Spain currently has six centres authorised by the European Community health authorities and the Ethics Committee to carry out this trial. They are currently selecting patients to take part in it. One of these centres is Hospital Quirón Teknon in Barcelona and another is Clínica Universitaria de Navarra in Pamplona. 

It is hoped that this new drug may provide many benefits in controlling seizures in patients with either syndrome. 

In order to be a candidate for the trial, patients must meet the following requirements:

  • They must have been previously diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome
  • Aged between 2 and 18 (Dravet) or 2 and 55 (Lennoz-Gastaut).
  • Uncontrolled seizures
  • Being treated with at least one antiepileptic drug.
  • A minimum of four seizures per month.

 

2. New technologies for epilepsy surgery

New technologies are gradually appearing that allow more secure and precise diagnostic and surgical techniques. 

New neuroimaging techniques 

There is now a new system for precisely inserting electrodes in a point of the brain with a margin of error of one millimetre with a single small incision. This new technology makes it possible to assess very specific points that may cause seizures for both diagnosis and subsequent precise and safe resection.

Neuroimaging diagnostic techniques are also being improved with the shift from static pictures to pictures of the brain in movement. These new techniques, such as magnetoencephalography, high-density electroencephalography and MR/PET fusion make it possible to detect affected cells much more precisely.

Surgery without craniotomy

Surgery without craniotomy using clotting systems is a new minimally invasive epilepsy surgery system similar to that currently used for tumours.

 

3. Neurostimulation

Other innovations include treatment that is being developed to eliminate seizures. This is vagal neurostimulation, which automatically detects seizures through changes in the patient's electrocardiogram and then automatically fires a stimulus that blocks them.

Although the technology already exists, its impact is being enhanced with increasingly precise systems. One of the companies that is working on this system is Cyberonics.

 

4. Genetic research

Finally, in-depth research is being conducted into the 130 genes related to epilepsy. There is a type of epilepsy that is hereditary. In other words, it is passed down from parents to children. An example of this is Lafora disease, in which it is triggered by a dominant gene, but there are very few such cases.

Nevertheless, there are individuals who have a "genetic predisposition" who, due to their phenotype's genetic load, are more likely than others to have a particular disease, epilepsy in this case. In-depth research into genes that affect epilepsy makes it possible to prescribe medication that is increasingly personalised and more effective for each individual. For example, it makes it possible to take into account the metabolism of each drug in the liver, the reactions each person has to the medication, etc.

 

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