The study find that the patients from Austin Health and the University of Melbourne have been involved in the largest ever study looking at the genetic sequences of people with epilepsy. The international research; published this week in the American Journal of Human Genetics; involved almost 18,000 people worldwide and identified rare genetic variations that associated with a higher risk of epilepsy. Professor Sam Berkovic, Director of Epilepsy with Austin Health and Laureate Professor with the University of Melbourne; said the study found there were genetic links shared by both severe forms of epilepsy and less severe forms of the disease.
The genetic sequences
There are approximately 50 million people across the world with epilepsy; a condition that causes repeated seizures due to excessive electrical activity in the brain;” Professor Berkovic said. Epilepsy comes in a number of different forms ranging from less common variations such as developmental and epileptic encephalopathies that cause severe symptoms, to other; less severe forms such as genetic generalized epilepsy and non-acquired focal epilepsy that account for up to 40% of cases.
This research is important because the more we understand the genes that are link. Epilepsy; the better we can tailor treatments to reduce the symptoms and let patients live more active lives.” Professor Sam Berkovic; Director of Epilepsy; Austin Health and Laureate Professor; University of Melbourne The study brought together more than 200 researchers from across the world to better understand the genetics of the disease.
Severe forms of epilepsy
Researchers used sequencing to look at the genes of 17,606 people from across 37 sites in Europe, North America, Australasia and Asia and find rare genetic variations that are associate with both severe and less severe forms of epilepsy. The coordination of the clinical data occurred in Melbourne with the gene sequencing performed at the Broad Institute, Boston; led by Dr Benjamin Neale. 1370 patients from Austin Health and the University of Melbourne were part of the study; which was five times larger than any previous research looking at the gene sequencing of epilepsy patients.
“Genetic sequencing has significantly improved our understanding of the risk factors association with epilepsy in recent years;” Professor Berkovic said. “This study shows that more and less severe forms of the disease share similar genetic features; and the more we understand these features the better chance we have to personalize the care we give to patients. “There are already plans in place to double the size of the study in the next year to further explore the significance of the genetic variations that are linked with epilepsy.”