Researcher biography

Associate Professor Lata Vadlamudi has been a researcher in the field of epilepsy since 2002 and has been a neurologist in clinical practice since 2000. Associate Professor Lata Vadlamudi is a senior Staff Specialist in Neurology at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital and Group Leader at the UQ Centre for Clinical Research.

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders affecting over 50 million people worldwide and is characterised by the occurrence of seizures. One in 26 people will develop epilepsy during their lifetime. Despite more than 20 anti-epileptic medications, more than 30% of patients are not able to control their seizures with anti-epileptic medications.

Current research interests include:

(1) Integrating genomics into clinical practice, in order to improve patient care and facilitate precision-based treatment choices.

(2) Functional genomic models in epilepsy

(3) Genomic and epigenomic landscapes of epilepsy, in order to expand our understanding of the cause of this complex disease.

Clinical Genomics

The goal is to demonstrate that the integration of genomics into the clinical care of refractory epilepsy patients will significantly improve their healthcare and show that this can be delivered using available resources effectively and efficiently. This project involves screening for genes, to see if we can identify a cause for epilepsy.

The mission will be accomplished by creating a diagnostic and management algorithm that incorporates accessible genomic testing for the treating neurologist, a multi-disciplinary approach for report generation, enabling a clinically meaningful report to the neurologists as well as individualised reports to patients.

Functional Genomics

The rate of gene discovery, however, has outpaced our ability to understand the pathophysiology of gene variants and how they relate to phenotypes. There is an imperative need to develop high-throughput functional analyses, such as induced pluripotent stem cells and cerebral organoids (3D neuronal networks), that are able to model the combinatorial impact of genetic variants observed in patients and their functional impact. Further proof of principle approach would involve introducing some common genetic variants into a control pluripotent cell line, to determine which are of functional significance.

Epigenomics

Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression without changes to the DNA sequence. The most studied epigenetic mechanism is DNA methylation. Twins are an ideal paradigm for differentiating between the three major components of phenotypic variation: genetics, shared, and non-shared environment. The discordant monozygotic twin model further provides an elegant study design that controls for shared genetic and environmental factors, enabling focus on the non-shared environment, the largest component of risk variance across all chronic disorders. Twin models are ideal for understanding the epigenetic and genetic landscape in epilepsies.