In the United States, about 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives. Though this is a staggering number as it is, traumatic brain injury can greatly heighten the risk of developing this seizure disorder. According to the NIH, “Seizures…happen in 1 to 5 of every ten people who have had a TBI, depending on where the injury occurred in the brain.” Though this statistic is very vague, even the fact that ten percent of brain injured individuals may develop epilepsy is a horrifyingly large number. However, the reality of this awful statistic may present an opportunity for a broad range medical breakthrough.
A TBI is caused by a single moment, a single jolt to the brain. “Because the precise time of the epilepsy-causing insult is known, traumatic brain injury offers the best opportunity for determining how epilepsy develops…,” says Dr. Jerome Engel, Jr., professor of neurology, neurobiology, and psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA. That means that a head injury, a single moment that severely disrupts one person’s life, may allow doctors to find a cure for millions of others.
In this UCLA-led study for a cure, a.k.a. Epilepsy Bioinformatics Study of Antiepileptic Therapy (EpiBioS4Rx), “the research team will identify biomarkers associated with the development of epilepsy and develop therapies to prevent or modify the condition.” Specifically, along with UCLA, the project will be a cooperation of UCLA with 13 centers for traumatic brain injuries and seven preclinical research centers. The NIH has pledged a grant of $21 million for the five-year study, $7.5 million of which will be granted to UCLA. Led by so many world-class neuroscientific teams and with the government’s financial assistance, EpiBioS4Rx may give hope for a cure, for an incurable disease.