Epilepsy: is the genetic revolution friend or foe? (public event)

Epilepsy: is the genetic revolution friend or foe? (public event)


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part of the Edinburgh Medical School 'Let's Talk About Health' public lecture series
March 15, 2017
Wellcome Auditorium, Queen's Medical Research Institute, Little France, Edinburgh EH16 4TJ

Epilepsy, one of the most common neurological conditions worldwide, is characterised by a tendency for seizures starting in the brain. There are more than half a million people in the UK with epilepsy but in more than half the cause is not known.

This lecture will explore how rapid advances in the field of genetics has changed our understanding of the cause(s) of epilepsy over the last 10 years. Twin studies showed us a long time ago that there is a genetic component to epilepsy, and family studies later identified some cases of epilepsy caused by a single gene. More recently, new developments in DNA sequencing have enabled us to identify new mutations that have occurred in children with (usually) severe epilepsy, often coupled with intellectual disability and autism, but without any family history of epilepsy. The discovery of new genes has opened up whole new avenues for research, in our understanding of what goes wrong in the way nerve cells communicate with each other, and the intriguing possibility of bespoke individual drug treatments. Most parents want to know about the prognosis for their child, but at the moment, with children prioritised for DNA sequencing, we may not yet know of any adults with mutations in the same gene and so can’t begin to predict outcomes. Does the desire for a definite diagnosis, and the membership of a “club” of families affected in the same way make the new technology a friend? Or does the uncertainty that clinicians have to communicate to the parents make the new technology a foe? Join us to explore the advances, the dilemmas, and the hopes for the future as we hunt for a cure and or better treatments for epilepsy.


Dr Richard FM Chin, Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre

Professor Cathy Abbott, Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, The University of Edinburgh

Doors open 4.30pm with teas and coffees available.  Refreshments available after event.