April 13, 2022

Two Grants to Investigate Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy Patients Featuring the Work of CURE Epilepsy Grantees Dr. Seven Crone and Dr. Christina Gross

Article published in UC News

One in 1,000 epilepsy patients die from SUDEP, or sudden unexplained death in epilepsy patients.

“This is a big problem,” Steven Crone, PhD, associate professor in pediatric neurosurgery in the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine said, “as you can imagine this is something that is very worrying to epilepsy patients.”

Recent discoveries have led researchers to believe that the actual cause of death is a sudden loss of respiratory function in these otherwise healthy epilepsy patients, and Crone is digging deeper to discover when these abnormalities occur.

A $250,000, two-year grant through CURE Epilepsy began the research in 2020. In partnership with neurology colleague Christina Gross, PhD, associate professor in the UC College of Medicine, Crone has been studying the changing breathing patterns in an epileptic mouse model’s breathing patterns using a plethysmography chamber.

“What we have found is these mice do have irregular breathing even when they otherwise appear healthy,” Crone said.

Crone and the researchers in his lab are recording the breathing and brain activity of the mice 24 hours a day.

“We’ve developed a system where we can implant radio transmitters into the mice, run wires to respiratory muscles like the diaphragm and record electromyography (EMG),” Crone said. “We also have wires running to the brain to record electroencephalogram (EEG).”

These simultaneous recordings will allow Crone to assess when the breathing problems are happening relative to the seizures, and it will show what activity is going on in the mice in the moments before death.