Mayo Clinic, veterinary schools explore new ways to predict, control seizures

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May 01, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

NATIONAL REPORT — New collaborative research being conducted by veterinary colleges, the Mayo Clinic and other organizations will investigate new ways to predict and control epileptic seizures in dogs and people.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, awarded a $7.5 million grant to sustain the research at the Mayo Clinic and its partners—the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) School of Veterinary Medicine, the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Pharmacy, the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn and NeuroVista Corp. The research involves studying new ways to predict and control epileptic seizures in dogs and people.

Epilepsy is thought to affect about 1 percent of the human population, with an estimated 50 million people worldwide suffering from the disorder. The hallmark of epilepsy is the seizure—a sudden and often violent event that strikes patients without warning. The goal of the research is to use information gleaned from real-time electroencephalograms (EEGs)to consistently detect impending seizures and develop methods of preventing these seizures through fast-acting drug therapies, researchers report.

The grant awards $1.5 million a year for up to five years. The principal investigators of the studies are Greg Worrell, MD, PhD, Mayo Clinic; Ned Patterson, DVM, PhD, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine; Jim Cloyd, PharmD, University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy; Charles Vite, DVM, PhD, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine; Brian Litt, MD, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; and Kent Leyde, chief technology officer of NeuroVista Corp.

NeuroVista is a Seattle-based company developing novel technologies for the management and treatment of epilepsy. The company has developed an implantable device system that continuously collects and analyzes EEG data to detect impending seizures. The system uses an external patient-carried device to indicate the risk of an impending seizure. The system is undergoing study in human patients in clinical trials being conducted in Australia. The NIH-funded research will involve applying the NeuroVista technology to dogs with naturally occurring epilepsy and extending the technology to guide the administration of fast-acting drugs to prevent seizures. It is hoped that this work will translate to a similar solution for human patients.

"This collaboration with three major academic centers creates a powerful engine for innovation in the treatment of epilepsy," Leyde says. "We are excited about the opportunity to advance the promising research in this field and translate what we learn in canines into the clinical environment."

"This epilepsy management system technology shows promise for detecting and predicting seizures in dogs and people," says Doug Sheffield, VMD, PhD, vice president of clinical research for NeuroVista. "This technology has the potential to profoundly impact epilepsy research and patient care."

"Despite more than 15 drugs currently available for the chronic treatment of epilepsy, approximately 25 percent to 35 percent of people continue to have persistent and serious seizures even when receiving the most advanced medical care," Cloyd adds. "For those whose epilepsy is well controlled by medication, they must often cope with significant and debilitating side effects."

"The constant fear and uncertainty as to when the next seizure is going to strike often exacts a serious toll on the quality of life for patients and their families," Patterson says. "The problem for patients with epilepsy is they actually only have seizures a small percentage of their lifetime, but they're on medication continuously."

"There is a real need for technology to inform patients about when seizures are likely to occur and to alert caregivers when seizures strike," Litt says.

While the long-range goal of the studies is to find better ways to treat people, the research team stresses that their work will help animals.

"As I remind everyone, I am a veterinarian, and this technology will be of value to animals as well," Vite says. Patterson and Vite each treat hundreds of dogs with epilepsy at their respective university veterinary clinics.

"Our goal is reliable seizure forecasting in conjunction with timely, effective short-term intervention, and this could lead to more effective treatment for both canine and human epilepsy," Worrell adds.