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of everyone affected by epilepsy

Enhanced epilepsy therapy with genetic analysis possible

16 March, 2004

The major genetic
differences that are responsible for identifying whether a person with
epilepsy will
respond to a particular treatment will be outlined in a new study to
be presented to 6th
European Congress on Epileptology
, taking place in Vienna at the end of May.

The
study, undertaken at Vienna
General Hospital
, gives an insight
into new epilepsy therapies tailor-made for the needs of each individual
patient by looking at why the efficacy of drugs varies so strongly from
one patient to the next.

Previous studies
showed that proteins in the brain ensure that potentially damaging
substances are carried away from the cells. For a healthy organism,
this protective mechanism makes a lot of sense, however, it can make
it more difficult to treat diseased tissue with drugs because these proteins
often transport medicines away from the cells that are meant to cure
them.

Dr Fritz Zimprich,
the head of the study, said:

"We have only known for
a little while of the existence of these so-called multi-drug resistance
proteins in the brain. We picked up on
this by thinking that the known differences in drug efficacy from one
epilepsy patient to another may be dependant upon how many of these proteins
are active in the brain of each of these patients. In turn, the degree
of activity may be impacted by minute variations in genes that code for
these proteins."

There
are at least two of these genes since every person has a set of two
chromosomes.
In this study, they compared the genetic sequence (symbolised
by the letters A, C, G and T) of a very specific subsection of this pair
of genes. The surprising finding for the researchers was that five out
of six of these epilepsy patients respond very poorly to drugs if the
sequence
is CGC
on both
subsections.

Dr Zimprich continued:

"In the future,
we will be able to make reliable predictions on the efficacy of a medical
therapy
by analysing the pertinent gene sections
of epilepsy patients. Beyond this, these insights will form the point
of departure for future combined therapies where the transport proteins
are switched off by additional therapeutic agents, thus augmenting the
efficacy of traditional drugs."