Researchers studying epilepsy are examining how and why seizures develop, how they can best be treated or prevented, and how they influence brain development. Researchers are also working to identify genes that may influence epilepsy in some way. Preliminary findings suggest that stem cell transplants may prove beneficial for treating the disease. Other studies are focused on improving the quality of brain scans.
While research has led to many advances in understanding and treating epilepsy, there are many unanswered questions about how and why seizures develop, how they can best be treated or prevented, and how they influence other brain activity and brain development.
Researchers are studying all of these questions. They also are working to identify and test new drugs and other treatments for epilepsy and to learn how those affect brain activity and development.
Scientists continue to study how excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters interact with brain cells to control nerve firing.
For example, they can apply different chemicals to cultures of neurons in laboratory dishes to study how those chemicals influence neuronal activity. They also are studying how glia and other non-neuronal cells in the brain contribute to seizures. This epilepsy research may lead to new drugs and other new ways of treating seizures.
Researchers also are working to identify genes that may influence epilepsy in some way. Identifying these genes can reveal the underlying chemical processes that influence the disease and point to new ways of preventing or treating it.
In certain epilepsy research studies, scientists can study rats and mice that have missing or abnormal copies of certain genes to determine how these genes affect normal brain development and resistance to damage from disease and other environmental factors.
In the future, researchers may be able to use panels of gene fragments, called "gene chips," to determine each person's genetic makeup. This information may allow doctors to prevent epilepsy or to predict which treatments will be most beneficial.