Epilepsy research - Precision-based management

About

Our research is focused on better answering the two most common questions patients ask their neurologist in the Epilepsy Clinic: “What is the cause of my epilepsy?” and “How can my epilepsy be treated?” A better understanding of the cause for an individual patient will underpin the era of more personalised treatments to improve outcomes for this debilitating disorder.

1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy and the current “one size fits all model” is not effective for more than one third of patients who remain drug resistant (refractory epilepsy).

“What is the cause of my epilepsy?”

The role of genomics has been well established in epilepsy, initially with family and twin studies and then with the discovery of single genes causing epilepsy. What has evolved is that the vast majority of epilepsy patients have a more complex genomic basis for their epilepsy.

Integrating genomic testing into clinical care

Genomics enables us to provide a better understanding of the cause of epilepsy for a particular patient. This approach will end the diagnostic odyssey of searching for how and why they developed epilepsy and will enable precision-based, personalised treatment approaches based on the individual’s genomic results.

“How can my epilepsy be treated?”
In vitro brain organoid drug screening platforms

To fundamentally change the way drug resistant epilepsy patients are being treated we are developing a patient-specific, in vitro brain organoid drug-screening platform that can identify effective anti-seizure drugs. We plan to test whether such in vitro identified drug regimens are “real-world” effective in treating epilepsy in a particular drug-resistant patient, highlighting a precision-based approach for optimal drug selection – reducing the burden on patients and their families.

RNA Therapeutics

RNA, once thought to simply be an intermediate step in the transition from DNA code to the proteome, is increasingly being recognised as a critical feature for information processing in the brain. This is due, in part, to the discovery that 98% of our genes do not code for protein but, instead generate a myriad of noncoding regulatory RNAs that function in a cell-type and state-dependent manner. Indeed, RNA metabolism has been shown to be involved in a variety of brain disorders, including epilepsy. In recent years, major advances in the field have demonstrated that RNA, as a therapeutic intervention, has the potential to reverse, correct or slow the progression of disease. 

Our team and collaborators

Associate Professor Lata Vadlamudi is a Principal Research Fellow and group leader at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, and Senior Staff Specialist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. Lata has 15 years’ experience as a researcher. This, coupled with her expertise as a neurologist in clinical practice for almost 20 years, provides her with unique insights into patient needs and the skills to develop and implement much needed research into epilepsy.

Professor Ernst Wolvetang is an international leader in the field of pluripotent stem cell biology and functional genomics for almost 20 years.  He is the senior group leader of the Stem Cell Engineering Group at The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) and Co-director of the Centre for stem cell ageing and regenerative engineering (stemCARE).

We have established strong collaborations with Professor Terry O’Brien, Professor Patrick Kwan and Associate Professor Zongyuan Ge from Monash University, Melbourne. We have obtained a successful Medical Research Future Funds Stem Cell Missions Grant (2021-2024) in collaboration with Monash University. We have shared interests in using organoid models derived from a patient’s own cells to identify effective anti-seizure drugs in the dish and combining this with artificial intelligence, to identify effective drugs for patients faster and more precisely.

We have a long and established collaboration with Professor Samuel Berkovic from the Epilepsy Research Institute in Melbourne. The Australian twin database at the Epilepsy Research Institute was the basis for our twin research.

Our team has also collaborated with Associate Professor Jeffrey Craig from the Deakin University in Victoria, who is an epigeneticist and twin researcher with over 20 years’ experience. He is the Deputy Director of Twins Research Australia.

We have collaborations with Professor Helen Cooper and Associate Professor Tim Bredy from the Queensland Brain Institute. Associate Professor Tim Bredy is the Director of the Centre for RNA in Neuroscience . A primary objective of the Centre is to develop new tools to control RNA in the brain and design new RNA based therapeutics for the treatment of neurological disorders.

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

Professor Ernst WolvetangProfessor Ernst Wolvetang

Senior Group Leader, Head of the Stem Cell Engineering Laboratory, University of Queensland
Email: e.wolvetang@uq.edu.au

Dr Hannah LeesonDr Hannah Leeson ​

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Email: h.leeson@uq.edu.au

Dr Mohammed ShakerDr Mohammed Shaker ​

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Organoid Biology
Email: m.shaker@uq.edu.au

Zoe HunterZoe Hunter ​

PhD candidate (2021-current)
Honours student (2020-2021)
Email: z.hunter@uq.net.au

Priyanka SainPriyanka Sain ​

Student, Masters of Biotechnology (2020)
Email: p.sain@uq.net.au

 

 Monash University

Terrence O'BrienProfessor Terrence O'Brien ​

Chair of Medicine and Head, The Central Clinical School, Monash University
Program Director – Alfred Brain & Deputy Director of Research, Alfred Health
Chair, Australian Epilepsy Clinical Trials Network (AECTN)

Patrick KwanProfessor Patrick Kwan

Professor of Neurology in the Department of Neuroscience, Central Clinical School, Monash University
Consultant Neurologist and Director of the Epilepsy Unit at Alfred Health

 

Dr Mohammed ShakerAssociate Professor Zongyuan Ge

Monash Medical Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Director

 

Epilepsy Research Centre

Samuel BerkovicProfessor Samuel Berkovic

Laureate Professor in the Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, and Director of the Epilepsy Research Centre at Austin Health

 

Queensland Brain Institute

Helen CooperProfessor Helen Cooper

Deputy Director, QBI
Email: h.cooper@uq.edu.au

Tim BredyAssociate Professor Tim Bredy

Director - Centre for RNA in Neuroscience, Group Leader, QBI
Email: t.bredy@uq.edu.au

 

Deakin University

Associate Professor Jeffrey CraigAssociate Professor Jeffrey Craig

Deakin University, Centre for Molecular and Medical Research, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health
Email: Jeffrey.craig@deakin.edu.au

Affiliations:

  • Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne
  • Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
  • Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne

 

Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Namitha MohandasNamitha Mohandas (2015-2020)

PhD Candidate
Email: namitha.mohandas@mcri.edu.au

Affiliations: 

  • Early Life Epigenetics, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne 
  • Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne
  • Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne

Jane LokeYuk Jing (Jane) Loke

Research Officer
Email: jane.loke@mcri.edu.au

Affiliations: 

  • Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne

Stephanie HopkinsStephanie Hopkins

Honours Student (2018)
Email: stephanie.hopkins@mcri.edu.au

Affiliations: 

  • Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne
  • University of Newcastle, Newcastle

We are grateful that this research has been generously enabled by competitive research grants including Medical Research Future Fund Stem Cells Mission, Brain Foundation, Metro North Hospital and Health Services Clinician Research Fellowship, Queensland Genomics, University of Queensland Mayne Bequest Funding, Queensland Health Research Fellowship, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Research Project Grants, Viertel Charitable Foundation Establishment Grant, Ramaciotti Establishment Grant and RACP Servier Barry Young Fellowship in Neurology.

For information on how you can help further this research, please contact Nic Zanyat on n.zanyat@uq.edu.au or 0448 413 157.

We wish to thank all those who have been so generous and supported this vital epilepsy research, to improve the lives of epilepsy patients.

We seek your support to speed the implementation of this research into the clinic, where it will create the much needed improvements in patient care and outcomes. For more information please contact our team to understand how you can help.

Donate to Epilepsy Research