Grant winner 2015

 “This research will enable us to maximise the use of living human tissue acquired through epilepsy surgery, which will in turn accelerate the gathering of information about drug-resistant epilepsies. Ultimately it will hopefully lead to the development of more effective drug treatments.” Professor Roland Jones (pictured)

Grant type: Pilot grant in epilepsy

Principal investigator: Professor Roland Jones

Institution: University of Bath

Amount: £29,582

Duration: 12 months

Scientific titleOrganotypic culture to maximise the utility of living brain tissue from epileptic patients

Why is this research needed?
Our understanding of epilepsy and its treatments has depended a lot on using animal models. However, the relevance of these to human epilepsy is questionable. It would be highly unethical for scientists to experiment directly on people with epilepsy, but it is possible for them to study living human tissue that has been removed during epilepsy surgery.  The problem with this is that there are a limited number of tissue samples available for each subject, and the tissue only stays alive for 12-15 hours meaning that a lot of tissue is wasted and the accumulation of data is slow.

What are the aims?
The experimental life of animal brain tissue can be extended by weeks, by keeping a nutrient culture medium (a gel or liquid that contains the nutrients necessary to keep tissue alive).  Professor Jones and his colleagues aim to determine whether or not it is possible to preserve live human tissue in a similar way, and the optimal conditions with which to achieve this.

How will the research be carried out?
The team will explore the effects of different culture media on the life and usability of human epilepsy surgery tissue (from both adults and children).  Specifically they will look to find a medium that will allow the functionality of human tissue slices to be investigated for 2-4 days (or possibly even longer).

What difference will it make?
Prolonging the life of human tissue in this way will allow scientists to make full use of valuable human tissue with minimal wastage (making it more economically viable). This will not only increase the rate at which we learn about how human epilepsy arises, but having more tissue available will also make the investigation of new treatments easier. In the longer term (5-8 years) the knowledge gained about human epilepsy as a result of this study may lead to new or improved epilepsy treatments.