Research is bringing new hope of two different treatments to prevent seizures
Two new treatments are being developed for people with epilepsy, that may offer hope of better seizure control in the future.
The first treatment is a 'pacemaker' for the brain, which can record electrical activity. The second treatment is stem cell derived neurons that may cut recurrent seizures.
The treatments have yet to be tested in humans, but the teams are hoping to test it soon. However, it is still a long way off from being available to the public.
The 'pacemaker' records the normal electrical current of the brain continually and if it notices a change of rhythm, immediately fires a stimulating charge to encourage the pulse back to normal.
The device is made up of two tiny arrays of electrodes which sit inside the skull and link to a circuit board. The chips would be embedded in a chassis located outside the head. Each chip could monitor electrical activity from 64 electrodes located in the brain.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is already used for people with epilepsy, but the electrical signatures that precede a seizure or tremor can be very subtle and the frequency and strength of stimulation required to prevent them is tricky to determine. This means it can take years to fine-tune.
However, the new device, dubbed Wand (Wireless Artifact-Free Neuromodulation Device) is constantly listening for disruptions in the electrical current so it can make instant adjustments.
Dr Ricky Muller, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at The University of California, Berekley, said: "The process of finding the right therapy for a patient is extremely costly and can take years. We want to enable the device to figure out what is the best way to stimulate for a given patient to give the best outcomes. You can only do that by listening and recording the nerual signatures".
Another potential treatmenthas shown that stem cell derived neurons may cut recurrent seizures. New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America suggests grafting a special type of stem cell may ultimately open the door to controlling seizures and potentially provide permanent, treatment of temporal lobe epilepsy.
The procedure has also been shown to alleviate cognitive, memory and mood dysfunction in the chronic phase of temporal lobe epilepsy.
However, despite this potential, it is unknown whether graft-derived cells are directly involved in suppressing spontaneuous recurrent seizures.
Investigators realise that more work needs to be done to determine the safety of the approach.
Ashok K. Shetty, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at Texas A&M College of Medicine, said: "We now need to test these same cells in severe epilepsy, because there are some risks associated with transplanting them. We have to make sure that transplantation does not lead to the formation of tumours and for that, you need to do long-term studies".
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