Investigating the pathways to suppress epilepsy

Image: Neuron cells in the absence of a seizureEpilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting about one percent of Americans. It is characterized by spontaneous unprovoked seizure activity, which can have devastating effects on the normal daily activities of children and adults.

Unfortunately, there are currently no known cures for the disease, with the exception of surgical intervention in a limited number of cases. Additionally, a large number of affected individuals are resistant to current antiepileptic drugs. That’s why James Hewett, an associate professor of biology and neuroscientist, feels epilepsy research is so critically important.

Hewett was recently awarded a $440,000 Academic Research Enhancement Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Hewett is using the three-year grant to engage undergraduate and graduate students in research to investigate possible pathways in the brain that function to suppress epilepsy.

“My research will use gene-targeting approaches to modify the function of specific subsets of neurons in the brain that are likely to be affected by epilepsy,” says Hewett. “It is my hope that this research will ultimately contribute to the development of novel approaches to prevent the acquisition of epilepsy in at-risk individuals or to treat, and even perhaps reverse, established epilepsy.”