Grant winner 2015

“We want to understand why someone might develop epilepsy after suffering a head injury, such as stroke, infection or head trauma.  These are major causes of epilepsy and, currently, we just don’t know why or how this happens (and so we have no way of preventing it).  This project will provide crucial insights into how epilepsy can develop, and we hope that ultimately it will lead to good prophylactic treatments.” Dr Andrew Trevelyan (pictured)

Grant type: Project grant

Principal investigator: Dr Andrew Trevelyan

Institution: Newcastle University

Amount: £147,334

Duration: 24 months

Scientific titleThe homeostasis-conflict hypothesis of epileptogenesis

Why is this research needed?
Epileptogenesis is the term used to describe how epilepsy arises following a brain insult, for example a stroke, a traumatic brain injury or an episode of status epilepticus. It involves a long and complex cascade of events, and what little is known about it mainly concerns the final stages. Identifying what happens at the very start of this cascade, however, could lead to important breakthroughs and, ultimately, to treatments that stop epileptogenesis. Currently no such treatments are available.

What are the aims?
Dr Trevelyan and his team will focus on the beginning of the cascade, and they plan to identify how a brain insult can lead to early changes in neuronal function.

How will the research be carried out?
The group will use brain slice preparations, which are easier to study than whole animals, to identify how an episode of intense seizure-like activity causes neurons to change which genes they express (the way in which they assimilate the information encoded in their genes), which in turn will affect how the neurons function. They believe that these gene changes are the start of the epileptogenic cascade.

What difference will it make?
Identifying the gene changes that occur at the beginning of the epileptogenic cascade will transform how the subsequent stages are studied (providing more useful results). Even more importantly, it could highlight drug targets within the cascade, which will potentially lead to the development of new treatments. The team hopes that such therapies will be available in the next 15 years.

Dr Andrew Trevelyan with Dr Riley Parish

Dr Andrew Trevelyan (L) with Dr Riley Parish (another member of the project team)