Groundbreaking epilepsy research project ‘unparalleled’ in clinical focus

April 19, 2012

OBI-funded project launches
Deron Hamel

The epilepsy research community is excited about the launch of an “unparalleled” project that will investigate improvements in clinical care for seizure disorders.

Epilepsy Ontario board member and director of the University of Toronto Epilepsy Research Program Dr. Mac Burnham says the most exciting aspect of the research project, which is funded by the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI), is the focus on achieving clinical results.

“It’s epilepsy research, but it’s not meant to be basic science; it’s research that’s meant to have a clinical impact within the next five years,” says Burnham, a scientist involved with the project.

“That’s a very important aspect of the OBI; they don’t want abstract research, they want practically oriented research.”

The research being undertaken is multifaceted and will be bringing together experts with interests in many areas of epilepsy, including diagnosis and epidemiology, drug and non-drug seizure control, surgical seizure control, the role of genetics in epilepsy, and diet, which is the area of the project involving Burnham.

The dietary research Burnham has already been involved with has investigated the impact omega-3 polyunsaturated acids have on raising seizure threshold. Studies undertaken with animals suggest the introduction of omega-3 acids do raise the threshold.

“We’re going from animal work to a clinical trial at this point to see if we can help control seizures, essentially just by taking fish-oil tablets,” Burnham says.

Burnham says the best result that could stem from the work would be for it to impact epilepsy research in coming years. He characterizes the project as a major step forward in epilepsy research.

Aside from this project, the OBI is funding studies investigating autism spectrum disorders and cerebral palsy.

The epilepsy research project is bringing together Ontario’s top researchers, clinicians and patient advocacy groups, which is maximizing resources aimed at helping people with seizure disorders, says Dr. Donald Stuss.

Stuss, OBI’s president and scientific director, underscores the importance of the collaboration.

“We believe that working together in an integrated fashion on a provincial stage creates a level of communication and knowledge sharing that fertilizes innovation and benefits everyone,” he says.

“The best possible result is that the lives of those living with epilepsy are noticeably improved — either through better access to care, faster diagnosis, more effective treatments, or a better quality of life.”

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