Epilepsy is recognized by the World Health Organization as the most common serious brain disorder worldwide, and it can be thoroughly debilitating.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are living with epilepsy, a disease characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. In addition to seizures, the disease can cause changes in mood, perception, and cognitive function. And for too many, it eventually proves fatal. A life with unmanaged epilepsy is a life of fear and disorder.
Seizures can happen anytime and anywhere. While some people with epilepsy will only have one seizure a year, others may suffer through multiple seizures every day. A life with unmanaged epilepsy is a life of disorder. Currently, about 70% of epilepsy patients are able to at least partially manage their disease through medication or surgery, but that leaves a lot of work left to be done.
We must do something — and the only way forward is continued research funded by organizations like Epilepsy Canada. “Our sole mandate at Epilepsy Canada is to raise donations for epilepsy research with the objective of finding a cure,” says Gary Collins, the organization’s president and an epilepsy patient himself. “Along that path to a cure, we’re also looking for ways to improve the lives of those currently living with epilepsy.”
As we improve our understanding of brain chemistry and function, we’re discovering new targets and paradigms for treatment.Dr. Peter Carlen of the University Health Network’s Epilepsy Program and Krembil Research Institute
On the cusp of a revolution in epilepsy treatment
Researchers like Dr. Peter Carlen of the University Health Network’s Epilepsy Program and Krembil Research Institute are using Epilepsy Canada research grants to open up entirely new avenues of investigation such as stem cell research, gene therapy, and even using artificial intelligence (AI) and deep brain stimulation to detect and avert seizures before or as they happen.
“Over the decades, there has only been incremental improvement in epilepsy,” says Dr. Carlen. “Today, however, the pace of research and depth of understanding regarding the disease is increasing markedly. We’re embarking on some very novel treatments and ideas that need much more research. As we improve our understanding of brain chemistry and function, we’re discovering new targets and paradigms for treatment. Some of this stuff is potentially very exciting.”
For these revolutionary ideas to become reality, more research funding is required from organizations like Epilepsy Canada, which depends on donor and volunteer support. “Research takes time and it is incredibly expensive,” Collins reminds us. “So, in order to improve the lives of people living with epilepsy, we need time and money.”