Brain

A UCLA-led international consortium of academic research institutions has been awarded a $21 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop better ways to prevent epilepsy following traumatic brain injuries.

Seven principal investigators will lead the grant at five institutions: the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, University of Southern California, University of Melbourne and University of Eastern Finland. The investigators will collaborate in the fields of bioinformatics, molecular biology, cellular pathology, therapy discovery and the health sciences.

UCLA, which operates both the Seizure Disorder Center and the Brain Injury Research Center, will receive about $7.5 million of the five-year grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The research team will identify biomarkers associated with the development of epilepsy and develop therapies designed to prevent or modify the condition, which is currently incurable. They will also engage with people who have epilepsy and their families to help identify their most pressing needs and concerns, encourage them to participate in research, and provide educational resources. The project, the Epilepsy Bioinformatics Study for Antiepileptogenic Therapy, or EpiBioS4Rx, includes an international network of 13 centers for traumatic brain injuries and seven preclinical research centers with expertise in traumatic brain injury, epileptogenesis, the identification of plasma, tissue, electroencephalographic and imaging biomarkers, as well as preclinical therapy development.

“Because the precise time of the epilepsy-causing insult is known, traumatic brain injury offers the best opportunity for determining how epilepsy develops and how certain biomarkers may change during this process,” said Dr. Jerome Engel Jr., professor of neurology, neurobiology, and psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the overall director of the project. “These investigations will help us find clinically relevant treatments to help prevent epilepsy not only in those with traumatic injuries but also in the general population.”

Epilepsy is a broad term used for a brain disorder that causes seizures. About 2.9 million adults and children in the United States have active epilepsy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drugs do not adequately control about a third of those patients’ seizures. Traumatic brain injuries are the most significant cause of epilepsy in people ages 15 to 24.

The principal investigators on the grant are Engel and Dr. Paul Vespa, of the Geffen School of Medicine; Dr. Aristea Galanopoulou, and Dr. Solomon Moshé, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Health System; Dr. Terence O’Brien of the University of Melbourne; Dr. Asla Pitkänen of the University of Eastern Finland; and Arthur Toga of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.