A new study by gene therapy scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may lead to an effective long-term treatment for preventing seizures associated with a common form of epilepsy. The study appears this week in the Internet edition of the journal Nature Medicine and will appear in the Aug. 1 print edition of the journal. The research provides an important foundation for the development of new gene therapies to treat focal seizure disorders, the authors said.
As the name indicates, focal (or partial) seizures involve an electrical storm affecting only a part of the brain. Such seizures may remain localized or spread to other parts of the cerebral cortex. The temporal lobes, one on each side of the head just above the ears, are the brain sites of one of the most common forms of epilepsy involving focal seizures.
"Epilepsy afflicts approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population. A large proportion of epileptic adults have temporal lobe epilepsy, which is often very difficult to treat, and for about 30 percent of those individuals the only treatment option is surgery," said study co-author Dr. Thomas J. McCown, associate professor of psychiatry in UNCs School of Medicine and a member of the UNC Gene Therapy Center. That option is surgical resection, or removal of abnormal brain tissue at the site linked to the seizures. However, despite resection, only 50 percent to 60 percent of temporal lobe epilepsy patients improve following the surgery.
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