March Epilepsy Blog UK

Research in a lab setting
Giving hope for new innovations

Research carried out in a laboratory is experimental. Scientific methods are used to discover how seizures occur, as well as investigate ways to improve diagnosis, treatments and prevention. On the Research Blog this month, we look at how laboratory research is providing us with hope for new innovations. We also look at how people with epilepsy are shaping this vital work.

In laboratories up and down the country, research is unravelling the complexities of epilepsy, uncovering the forces behind it and revealing new opportunities to control seizures.

600,000 people in the UK living with epilepsy need this research – especially the 1 in 3 people for whom epilepsy drugs don’t work. Every treatment and test has to start somewhere, and the lab is where many of them begin.

Last month on the Research blog, we looked at clinical research in a hospital setting. This month, it’s the turn of lab-based research, and we’ll be highlighting some of the exciting and innovative work funded by Epilepsy Research UK, thanks to your donations.

The lab is where scientists can delve into the details of epilepsy. Seizures can affect the whole body, but looking closer, they’re caused by how our brains work, which depends on the cells in our brain, which in turn depends on the molecules within those cells.

Revealing this microscopic detail of how molecules become seizures is helping to develop drugs which can intervene in just the right way, to reduce seizures or prevent them entirely.

Dr Daniela Ivanova is one researcher whose is studying epilepsy at this level of detail. The project aims to understand how the structure of nerve cells in the brain influences how seizures develop. In her blog later this month, she’ll be revealing more about the difference this work could make.

Early-stage research in the lab is often about testing new ideas – but exploration comes with some risks too. When you’re working on the boundaries of what is known about epilepsy, not everything goes to plan.

Later this month, Dr Gareth Morris shares an example of how his research with Professor Stephanie Schorge took a new direction after some disappointing results. Gareth argues that what some people see as ‘failures’ are actually an essential part of science.

Even without setbacks, it can take a long time for discoveries made in the lab to reach people with epilepsy. But this doesn’t mean that research in the lab is far removed from the real-world challenges of the condition. For example, people with epilepsy can have a big influence on the questions that research is trying to answer.

Rebecca is a member of our Shape Network PPI group and of its steering committee. She’s passionate about using her experience of epilepsy to shape the future of research into the condition. “I feel it’s a way of turning a negative into a positive,” Rebecca says. “Living with epilepsy gives you the insight of walking in the epilepsy shoes every day. So, you know where they are tight, where they rub and how you want to cast them off.”

In her blog next week, Rebecca explains why she got involved with the network, and how important it is that people with epilepsy have a say in research.

So, while researchers like Daniela, Gareth, and Stephanie are unravelling the complexities of epilepsy in the lab, Rebecca and others are helping make sure lab research stays focussed on the needs of people with the condition. Together, they’re working to bring the discoveries made in the lab today to benefit people with epilepsy in the future.

Stephanie, Mike, and Gareth spoke at our recent Shape Network Live conference – a meeting for Shape Network members to find out more about the different types of research into epilepsy, including lab research, clinical research, and big data research. 

The conference was recorded, and we are delighted to make the screening of the lab research session available later this month. Sign up to our E:Bulletin to find out how you can watch it.  

If you’re interested in attending a future Shape Network event you can join the network here

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