EU contributes $15.5 million to international epilepsy consortium

Initiative unites partners from eight European countries, the United States and Brazil

Kelsey Kaustinen
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The European Union, through its Framework Program 7, hascontributed 11.5 million euros (approximately $15.5 million) to the EpimiRNAConsortium, an international initiative that will research molecularmechanisms, diagnostics and treatments for epilepsy. The consortium bringstogether 16 partners from eight European countries, the United States andBrazil.
Prof. David Henshall of the Royal College of Surgeons inIreland will coordinate the consortium, with Prof. Felix Rosenow from PhilippsUniversity Marburg serving as co-coordinator. Other partners will hail from theUniversity Medical Center Utrecht, University College London, the University ofVerona, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen/Nuernberg, Duke University,University of Campinas, Aarhus University and University of Southern Denmark.Several companies will be joining the consortium as well, including DIXIMicrotechniques, Cerbomed GmbH, InteRNA Technologies, Bicoll GmbH, BC Platformsand GABO:mi.
Epilepsy currently affects more than 50 million peopleworldwide, making it the most common serious neurological disorder with nocure. Not enough is known about the causes of epilepsy, and current treatmentsfail to offer significant benefits. Recent research, however, has discoveredthat microRNA may play a significant role in controlling the changes in brainchemistry associated with epilepsy. The financial burden of epilepsy is roughly14 billion euros (approximately $18.9 billion) in the European Union alone.Epilepsy presents with recurring, unprovoked seizures, and patients with thisdisorder have a two- to three-fold increase in mortality. Temporal lobeepilepsy is the most common type in adults, and can result from brain trauma,infection or status epilepticus (prolonged seizure).
MicroRNAs play a role in controlling the protein levels ofsignaling pathways, and research by EpimiRNA consortium members has revealedthat microRNA changes are a feature of the pathophysiology of temporal lobeepilepsy. They are responsible for controlling synaptic strength, ion channellevels, neuroinflammation, apoptosis and glial function, all of which aredysregulated in epileptogenesis. In addition, unique microRNA profiles inbiofluids have been documented in seizures in animal models, which meansmicroRNAs might also serve as potential biomarkers of epileptogenesis in humansas well. Members of the EpimiRNA consortium have also discovered brain-specificmicroRNAs and that altering microRNA function can significantly suppressepileptic seizures and resultant damage.
With its team of experts in neurobiology, the genetics ofepilepsy and leaders in microRNA target detection, proteomics and systemsbiology, EpimiRNA will seek to define the mechanism by which microRNAscontribute to epileptogenesis, characterize genetic variation of microRNA inpatients, evaluate microRNAs' effectiveness as seizure suppressants, identifynovel microRNA modulatory molecules as potential therapeutics and developmicroRNAs as prognostic markers to determine which patients will respond tonon-pharmacological interventions.
SOURCE: EpimiRNA press release

Kelsey Kaustinen

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