Epilepsy is one of the most prevalent neurological diseases worldwide, affecting approximately 50 million people around the globe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Here in the United States, about one out of every 26 people will even develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime.
Those with epilepsy experience a disruption of nerve cell activity in the brain– which ultimately results in seizures.
And even though about two-thirds of patients diagnosed with severe epilepsy can receive relief via traditional medications, approximately one-third of patients actually do not benefit from currently available therapies.
In some of these cases, standard drugs can even worsen seizures.
Dravet syndrome is one specific kind of treatment-resistant severe epilepsy that is caused by genetic mutations and begins during the first year of life.
The syndrome, formerly known as severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy (SMEI), can cause up to 40 seizures per hour. It is also linked to severe developmental delays and a high infant mortality rate.
Recently, though, researchers from Macquarie University’s Dementia Research Center in Sydney, Australia, conducted a new study centered around a groundbreaking treatment that may prevent seizures by clearing protein build-ups in the brain.
The work was led by Professor Lars Ittner, who has been studying the underlying causes of neurological diseases– specifically the role of built-up tau proteins– with his team for several years.
Most recently, the team discovered that a tau protein build-up causes the hyperexcitation of neurons in Alzheimer’s patients. In other words, they identified this mechanism as a significant driver in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).