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Grant recipients were selected with the invaluable assistance of the CURE Scientific Advisory Council and the CURE Research Review Board.

2013  |  2012  |  2011  |  2010  |  2009  |  2008  |  Older

CURE grant award Grants marked with an asterisk are made possible by individuals, families, foundations, or corporations.

2009 Research Awards

Traumatic Brain Injury Awards
A Partnership with the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC)

Richard Staba

Richard J. Staba, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles

“Pathological Electrical Brain Activity in Traumatic Brain Injury”

Traumatic brain injury and its major, commonly resulting condition, posttraumatic epilepsy (PTE), are associated with significant functional disability. Currently, there is no way to predict who will develop PTE after brain injury, and no effective treatments to prevent it. Dr. Staba’s research uses direct brain recordings to characterize very fast electrical events called pathologic high frequency oscillations (pHFOs) that are believed to be responsible for the generation of epilepsy in the brain. His research will attempt to confirm that pHFOs underlie PTE. The long-term goal is to utilize pHFOs as a biomarker to screen new disease-modifying drugs in order to prevent PTE.



D'Ambrosio
Miller
Ojemann
Smyth
Rothman

Raimondo D’Ambrosio, PhD
University of Washington

John Miller, MD, PhD
University of Washington

Jeffrey Ojemann, MD
University of Washington

Matthew Smyth, MD
Washington University

Steven Rothman, MD
University of Minnesota

“Focal Cooling as a Prophylactic Treatment for Post-traumatic Epilepsy”

Seizures resulting from head injury often emanate from the specific portion of the brain that has been injured, resulting in what are called partial seizures. This type of seizure is often especially resistant to treatment and there is an urgent need for novel and more effective treatments. Dr. D'Ambrosio's project will determine whether focal brain cooling—cooling of the area of the brain responsible for the epilepsy—is an effective option to terminate seizures in both animals and humans. The planned experiments will define both the therapeutic window best suited to control and potentially prevent the partial seizures induced by head injury in an animal model, and the magnitude and extent of surface cooling needed to achieve a similar objective in humans. If successful, this work will provide the groundwork for the translation of focal cortical cooling from “bench to bedside” as a treatment for human epilepsy.



Lee

Stefan M. Lee, PhD
University of Southern California

“New Biometric Technology for “Just-In-Time” Delivery of Anti-Convulsants Following Traumatic Brain Injury”

A significant and common consequence of traumatic brain injury is a selective loss of inhibitory nerve cells around the site of impact, resulting in focal seizures emanating from the areas of the brain that have been injured. Dr. Lee’s research will focus on a completely new approach for the treatment of focal epilepsy utilizing a smart-pump. The smart-pump will release an anti-epileptic drug to the brain as soon as epileptic activity is detected to stop the seizure before it can spread to other parts of the brain. This technology represents the future of selective and immediate drug delivery for seizures, with the potential of minimizing adverse side effects of medications.



Pitkanen

Asla Pitkänen, PhD
University of Kuopio, Finland

“Prevention of Post-Traumatic Epilepsy (PTE) by Pharmacological Neurostimulation – A Preclinical Proof-of-Principle Study in a Rat Model of PTE”

The signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is traumatic brain injury. Epilepsy will be a long-term, serious consequence for many of these wounded warriors, resulting in difficult-to-control seizures, along with potential motor disability and cognitive decline. Traumatic brain injury also affects about 1.5 million American civilians annually. Dr. Pitkänen will investigate two pharmacological compounds that increase neuronal excitability as a way to assess if they can modify the neurobiological processes that lead to post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE). The ultimate goal is to develop treatments that could potentially prevent the development of PTE, as well as enhance motor and cognitive recovery, in an animal model of epilepsy.



Prince
Graber

David A. Prince, MD and Kevin Graber, MD
Stanford University School of Medicine

“Prevention of Epilepsy after Brain Injury”

Because seizures after serious head injury often first occur weeks or even years later, there is a significant window of opportunity in which to intervene and potentially prevent the development of posttraumatic epilepsy (PTE). Building on past NIH- and CURE-funded studies, Drs. Prince and Graber will use three approaches in a rodent model to attempt to limit the excessive connections between nerve cells and the loss of inhibitory control of brain activity that contribute to epilepsy after injury. They will: 1) use gabapentin to limit the formation of new nerve connections in the brain; 2) use a substance (brain-derived neuronal growth factor) that nourishes and supports normal inhibitory nerve cells in order to protect them; and 3) manipulate a gene responsible for the development of excessive excitatory connections between nerve cells.

 

Multidisciplinary Awards
One-year grants in support of collaborative research

CURE grant award The 2009 Madison Friends of CURE Award
This grant is jointly sponsored with matching funds from CURE.
Rothman/Rode

Steven Rothman, MD
University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN

Daniel Rode, PhD
Washington University, St. Louis, MO

“Optical Control of Focal Epilepsy with Caged Compounds”

Focal seizures are often resistant to treatment with antiepileptic medications, and surgery to remove the affected area of the brain can cause permanent neurological deficits and may fail to control the seizures. Drs. Rothman and Rode will develop drugs that will be locally applied to the affected brain region that are only active when activated by a light (caged compounds). The goal of their research is to terminate seizures using compounds activated by light without affecting the function of the rest of the brain. If successful, this method could provide another mechanism for treating epilepsy without the side effects.



CURE grant award The 2009 UCB Award
This award is made possible through an unrestricted educational grant,
and is jointly sponsored with matching funds from CURE.
Audrey Yee/Amy Yee

Audrey Yee, MD
University of Colorado, Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, CO

Amy Yee, PhD
Tufts University, Boston, MA

“Epilepsy and the Wnt Signaling Pathway”

Epilepsy is initiated by an event such as a prolonged seizure and is sometimes followed with the development of spontaneous seizures, learning disabilities, and other neurological issues. Dr. Audrey Yee, an epilepsy researcher and clinical neurologist, and Dr. Amy Yee, a breast cancer and Wnt signaling researcher, will investigate new mechanisms and therapeutic strategies to treat epilepsy. The Wnt signaling pathway is abnormal in many cancers, but may also have an unexpected role in the initiation of epilepsy. They will explore whether Wnt signaling is activated in brain cells following a seizure and contributes to epilepsy.



CURE grant award The 2009 Axelrod Family Award
This grant is funded by the CJM Foundation.
Bateman/Seyal

Lisa Bateman, MD
University of California, Davis, CA

Masud Seyal, MD, PhD
University of California, Davis, CA

“Efficacy of Fluoxetine in Reducing Ictal Hypoventilation in Patients with Partial Epilepsy”

Disordered breathing occurs in one-third of seizures in people with uncontrolled partial epilepsy. Does disordered breathing play a role in Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)? It is not know, but we do know that serotonin (a brain chemical) plays a role in the control of breathing, and when researchers increase serotonin levels in an animal model of SUDEP, they were able to prevent respiratory failure. Dr. Bateman and her collaborators will investigate whether fluoxetine (commonly known as Prozac and which increases serotonin levels) improves respiratory function in individuals with intractable partial epilepsy.



CURE grant award The 2009 Rock the Block for Pediatric Epilepsy Award
Tallent/Lutz

Melanie Tallent, PhD
Drexel University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

Gordon Lutz, PhD
Drexel University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

“Directing Glutamate Receptor Alternative Splicing to Treat Epilepsy”

Genes are the blueprint for making proteins in all of the cells in our bodies. The diversity of proteins is far greater than the number of genes, so a single gene can encode multiple proteins with distinct functions through a process called alternative splicing. The regulation of alternative splicing is disrupted in many neurological diseases, including epilepsy. Drs. Lutz and Tallent will focus on rescuing abnormal alternative splicing in the brain as an approach to reduce seizures and prevent epilepsy. They are hopeful that these studies will lead to a new understanding of the mechanisms of epilepsy and new approaches to therapy.



Hsieh/Scharfman

Jenny Hsieh, PhD
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Helen Scharfman, PhD
The Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research

“Postnatal Neurogenesis as a Therapeutic Target for Epilepsy”

After birth, the brain continues to make new neurons. Research has shown that this process, called neurogenesis, is increased by seizures and by inducing epilepsy in an animal model of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Several studies have provided evidence that these new neurons may contribute to recurrent seizures, while the results of other studies suggest that the new neurons are actually beneficial to the adult brain. Drs. Hsieh and Scharfman will collaborate to block neurogenesis in an animal model of TLE to resolve this issue. The results of this study will help determine if targeting neurogenesis is a potential therapy for the treatment of TLE.



Roopra/Rutecki

Avtar Roopra, PhD
Paul Rutecki, MD
Corinne Burger, PhD

University of Wisconsin, Madison

“Assessing Metformin as an Anti-epileptogenic Drug”

A third of individuals with epilepsy have seizures that cannot be controlled by available medications. Addressing this challenge requires an understanding of how nerve cells in the brain function and communicate with each other. Many individuals with epilepsy benefit from the use of the ketogenic diet, leading Drs. Roopra, Rutecki, and Burger to hypothesize that medications that control the body’s energy usage might also control epilepsy. They will collaborate to determine if the use of the common drug Metformin, which works by switching on a key sensor of energy levels in the brain—a protein called AMPK— can control epilepsy.

Quest Award
One-year grants for both established and early career investigators

CURE grant award The 2009 Griffin Leadbetter Award
Delia Talos

Delia Talos, MD
Children’s Hospital, Boston/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

“Targeting the Chloride Transporter NKCC1 for Seizure Suppression in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC)”

Epilepsy is a common and devastating occurrence for individuals with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC), and conventional antiepileptic drugs are often of limited benefit. Nerve cells affected by this genetic disease cannot react appropriately to certain inhibitory signals mediated by chemical neurotransmitters. Dr. Talos’ research will examine the altered nerve cell response in TSC, and determine if this alteration plays a crucial role in seizure development and the brain’s ability to respond to medication. Her study will investigate alterations of brain cell response to inhibitory signals in individuals with TSC, with the goal of identifying new therapeutic targets and developing more effective approaches to treat epilepsy.

SUDEP Awards
One-year grants for the study of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)

CURE grant award The 2009 Christopher Donalty and Kyle Coggins Award
Alicia Goldman

Alicia M. Goldman, MD, PhD
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

“Submicroscropic Rearrangements in Cardiac Arrhythmia Genes: The Quest for Genetic Risk Factors for SUDEP”

Dr. Goldman’s research is focused on identifying mutations in ion channel genes found in both the heart and the brain that underlie both cardiac arrhythmias and seizures, and may ultimately lead to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). They have developed an ion channel gene specific microarray that will be used to analyze DNA samples from SUDEP cases and from individuals with intractable epilepsy. This research will be important in elucidating molecular risk factors underlying SUDEP. The long-term goal is to assist in defining an epilepsy population at risk for sudden death and allow initiation of life-saving preventative measures, as well as the design of gene specific therapies.



CURE grant award The 2009 Henry Lapham Memorial Award
Elizabeth Donner

Elizabeth Donner, MD
University of Toronto, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada

“Registry of SUDEP in Children”

Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) accounts for 34% of all sudden deaths in children. The objective of Dr. Donner’s research is to recognize which children are at the greatest risk of SUDEP. Using a network of collaborators across Canada, she will implement a registry that will collect data on every child in Canada with SUDEP. The registry will also be used to identify risk factors for SUDEP. Dr. Donner and her collaborators will develop recommendations for health care providers so they can recognize and identify those children at the greatest risk for SUDEP, as well as identify protective measures to prevent deaths.

 

See previous years' CURE grant recipients:
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CURE For questions, please contact Julie Milder at the CURE office, 312.255.1801, or email julie@cureepilepsy.org.

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