Dr Gareth Morris, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the FutureNeuro Research Centre, has been awarded a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship for his project ‘EpimiRTherapy’. Gareth will be hosted for 24 months by FutureNeuro Director Prof David Henshall. The project will be carried out in collaboration with Prof Michael Johnson (Imperial College London), Dr Norman Delanty(FutureNeuro and Beaumont Hospital) and Prof Mark Cunningham (Trinity College Dublin).
His project, titled ‘EpimiRTherapy’ will explore the therapeutic potential of microRNA-based treatments in the epilepsy clinic. In 2012, Prof Henshall’s lab first discovered that blocking a certain microRNA (miR-134) could stop seizures in animal models of epilepsy. A subsequent collaboration between Dr Morris and Prof Henshall’s group also demonstrated the safety of this treatment in animal models, raising the exciting prospect of a safe and highly effective new epilepsy treatment.
EpimiRTherapy provides the key stepping stone towards clinical translation of this treatment. Dr Morris will, for the first time, test microRNA-based epilepsy treatments in human brain tissue. This tissue will be obtained from consenting patients who have to undergo surgery to remove small pieces of brain which are causing seizures.
It is critical to find new therapeutic avenues for epilepsy because, at present, existing treatments do not work adequately in around one third of patients. This project combines the world-leading expertise of the collaborators to deliver, for the first time, a complete understanding of a highly exciting and completely novel epilepsy treatment. Should the project prove successful, it provides the platform to move microRNA-based therapies towards the clinic, with the potential to fulfil an urgent and unmet need for new epilepsy treatments.