Scientists are studying potential antiepileptic drugs with goal of enhancing treatment for epilepsy.
Scientists continue to study how neurotransmitters interact with brain cells to control nerve firing and how non-neuronal cells in the brain contribute to seizures. One of the most-studied neurotransmitters is GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid.
Researchers are working to identify genes that may influence the disorder. This information may allow doctors to prevent it or to predict which treatments will be most beneficial.
Doctors are now experimenting with several new types of therapies for epilepsy, including:
- Transplanting fetal pig neurons into the brains of patients to learn whether cell transplants can help control seizures
- Transplanting stem cells
- Using a device that could predict seizures up to three minutes before they begin.
More than two million people in the United States -- about 1 in 150 -- have experienced an unprovoked seizure or been diagnosed with epilepsy. For about 80 percent of those diagnosed, seizures can be controlled with modern medicines and surgical techniques.
However, about 20 percent of people with epilepsy will continue to experience seizures even with the best available treatment. Doctors call this situation intractable epilepsy. Having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy.
Many people with epilepsy lead productive and outwardly normal lives. Medical and research advances in the past two decades have led to a better understanding of epilepsy and seizures than ever before. Advanced brain scans and other techniques allow greater accuracy in diagnosing it and determining when a patient may be helped by surgery.
Research on the underlying causes of epilepsy, including identification of genes for some forms of epilepsy and febrile seizures, has led to a greatly improved understanding of the condition that may lead to more effective treatments or even new ways of preventing epilepsy in the future.