New genetic study of epilepsy may reveal future treatments

A study involving nearly 45,000 participants, has discovered 11 new genes associated with epilepsy. Researchers compared the DNA of 15,000 people with epilepsy to the DNA of 30,000 people without epilepsy in the largest study of its’ kind to implicate the 11 new genes. They also found that the majority of current anti-epileptic drugs directly target one or more of the associated genes and identified an additional 166 drugs that do the same. These drugs are promising new candidates for epilepsy therapy as they directly target the genetic basis of the disease. This research has dramatically improved our understanding of the genetic factors that contribute to the most common forms of the condition, which has subsequently tripled the number of known genetic associations. The results of this study were published in the journal Nature Communications last week.

The work was conducted by of team of over 150 international researchers working under the auspices of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) Consortium on Complex Epilepsies. This group was formed in 2010 to tackle the complexity of genetic and environmental factors underlying epilepsy through an unprecedented collaboration on an international scale. Determining the shared and unique genetic basis of epilepsy syndromes may eventually lead to possible applications for improved diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment.

Dr Graeme Sills, Lecturer at the University of Glasgow and former Chair of Epilepsy Research UK’s Board of Trustees, is a member of the consortium, and said:

Epilepsy is a hugely complex and variable condition with many potential causes. The recent paper from the ILAE Consortium on Complex Epilepsies is an important breakthrough in understanding how differences in our genes can give rise to different types of epilepsy. This study has been possible thanks to advances in DNA analysis, investment in epilepsy research by government funders and charities, and the willingness of large numbers of people in the international research community to work together for the benefit of people with epilepsy. It offers exciting new insights into the genetic causes of the epilepsies and represents a significant step in the journey towards providing useful information to individual patients about the causes of their epilepsy and towards personalised treatment of epilepsy based on genetic variation.”

For more information, read the article in Nature Communications here.

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