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University of Utah to Host Lecture on Genetic Basis and Patient Treatment of Epilepsy

(Salt Lake City) —The University of Utah will host a lecture on March 17 focused on understanding the genetic basis of epilepsy and how to translate research findings into patient care.

The lecture, "Large-Scale Team Science and Epilepsy Genetics: The EPGP and Epi4K Experience," will be delivered by Dan Lowenstein, M.D., Vice-Chairman of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco and is part of a national campaign sponsored by the non-profit group CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy). Lowenstein has been a principal organizer of two large-scale, international efforts to study the complex genetics of epilepsy over the past 10 years. These projects, "Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project" and "Epi4K: Gene Discovery in 4,000 Genomes," are NIH-funded and have paved the way for advancements in medicine for the treatment of epilepsy.

Lowenstein's lecture at the University of Utah is part of CURE's ongoing seminar series, which has included stops at prestigious universities including Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. The goal of the lecture series is to incorporate discussion about epilepsy included more in curriculum at medical schools around the country, particularly in grand rounds and other seminar events in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds into the field of epilepsy research.

"We are honored that Dr. Lowenstein will be presenting his ground breaking work at the University of Utah and thankful to CURE for giving us this opportunity," said Karen S. Wilcox, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Utah as well as host of the upcoming seminar at the U.

"Given the U.'s rich history in epilepsy and human genetics research, coupled to the knowledge that genetics plays a tremendous role in a person's susceptibility to epilepsy, we anticipate that this CURE sponsored seminar will be an exciting and informative event," she said.

A group of parents whose children were diagnosed with epilepsy founded CURE in 1998 as a resource to share experiences and to advocate for more research and treatment advances for the condition. To date, CURE has raised more than $26 million to fund research and other initiatives aimed at uncovering a cure for epilepsy, which affects an estimated 3 million people in the U.S.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition involving the brain that makes people susceptible to having recurrent, unprovoked seizures. It is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system and affects people of all ages, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. In Utah, an estimated 106,000 people live with epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Association of Utah. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, he or she is considered to have epilepsy. There are many possible causes of epilepsy, including an imbalance of nerve-signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters and their receptors, tumors, strokes, and brain damage from illness or injury, or some combination of these. Research is continuing to advance to understand the causes of epilepsy.

The University of Utah has been home to the NIH-funded Anticonvulsant Screening Program (ASP) since 1974. Many of the seizure medications that are now available to patients with epilepsy were first identified in this program and the University of Utah researchers associated with the program have active NIH funded projects, CURE funded projects and collaborations that are designed to identify the basic mechanisms underlying the development of epilepsy and identify novel therapies for treatment resistant epilepsy.

University of Utah professor H. Steve White is the principal investigator of the ASP and Wilcox is co-investigator. Over the years, the efforts of the program have contributed to the successful development of nine new antiepileptic drugs for the treatment of refractory partial epilepsy.

White, who also is research director of CURE, said Lowenstein's upcoming lecture is an important part of the ongoing conversation about epilepsy research.

"CURE is delighted to support Dr. Lowenstein's lecture at the University of Utah where early research by Mark Leppert, Ph.D. and colleagues demonstrated a genetic link for two forms of pediatric epilepsy," said White. "Dr. Lowenstein's lecture will provide a unique opportunity for members of Utah's research community to meet with one of the preeminent epilepsy researchers and educators in the world."

Lowenstein's lecture is geared at a medical audience, but interested members of the media are welcome to attend on March 17 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at HSEB 1750 on the University of Utah Campus. A building map is available