Promising new epilepsy research

May 31, 2012 9:10:06 PM PDT
Doctors from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Veterinary Medicine along with several other centers nationwide including the Mayo Clinic have been awarded a $7.5 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of the National Institutes of Health (N.I.H.) to study ways to predict and control seizures in dogs and people.

Lindsey Kayati, 18, is a fierce tennis player. Her mom, an Action News editor, says Lindsey's been playing since she was little. She's won dozens of trophies and awards including South Jersey's co-player of the year. Plus she's got a scholarship to play at Rutgers University next year.

But Lindsey's toughest opponent isn't on the court; It's in her brain. She has epilepsy. Her first seizure struck just before 8th grade.

"I remember leaning to pick up a ball and a my racquet involuntarily fell out of my hand and my hand started to tremor and my vision started to blur. It was kind of scary, I remember thinking oh this is it, this is God's way of saying this is it," she said.

Her mother says, "It's a horrible thing as a parent to watch."

But thankfully, Lindsey's seizures are now at kept at bay with medication. But with the drugs, comes side effects.

She has trouble focusing on school work and at times, Lindsey is exhausted.

That's where new research hopes to help. Dr. Charles Vite of Penn's Veterinary School is part of team testing a device that aims to predict seizures. They're testing it in dogs with epilepsy, implanting a device that continuously records brain activity. It would measure the likelihood of having a seizure hours in advance.

"On a day when you might be expected to have seizures then you might take extra medication or maybe those are the only days you take medication. Or if you could predict you were not going to have a seizure that day, then you could have a day where you don't have to worry about it," Dr. Vite explained.

He says epilepsy strikes dogs similar to how it affects people. And Jackie Beaman says so does the medication. Her English Springer Spaniel 'Zelda' has epilepsy. The strict schedule of medication has made Zelda clumsy and not as alert. And, it doesn't always work. The video above shows one of Zelda's seizures. It starts with mild shaking and foaming at the mouth and then, it progresses.

Jackie says after the attack, Zelda can't see and is confused. She worries about her little girl Julianne and the twins on the way.

"Zelda is not a mean spirited dog in any means and would never do anything but she is not herself when she is having these. She would never attack but she would bump into her and knock her over," she said.

Jackie hopes to enroll Zelda in the study in the future so maybe it could help her and people. "I hope that this is the wave of the future for epilepsy patients because I know it's taxing for us but I can imagine how it would be for a human, it's gotta be worse," she said.

Lindsey doesn't let epilepsy slow her down but she does hope the research can help her cut back on medication and also help others who may be worse off.

"Just being able to feel safe is the most important thing," she said.

If people had more time to realize they may have a seizure, they could make sure that they are safe beforehand.

The study is a five year study. Right now they are not enrolling any more dogs but that could change in the future.

It is also being tested in Australia. They have implanted the device in 15 humans so far and the results are promising.

For more information on epilepsy visit www.efepa.org

You can also join others to raise awareness and money for epilepsy research at the Summer Stroll 2012. For information, visit www.strollforepilepsypa.kintera.org


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