The International League Against Epilepsy Consortium on Complex Epilepsies publishes genetic study of epilepsy points to potential new therapies

The largest genetic study of its kind, led by international researchers including Professor Gianpiero Cavalleri, Dr. Colin Doherty and Dr. Norman Delanty from FutureNeuro, has discovered 11 new genes associated with epilepsy.

The research is published in today’s issue of Nature Communications. It greatly advances knowledge of the underlying biological causes of epilepsy and may inform the development of new treatments for the condition.

Researchers compared the DNA of more than 15,000 people with epilepsy to the DNA of 30,000 people without epilepsy. This has created a better understanding of genetic factors that contribute to the most common forms of this condition. The results tripled the number of known genetic associations for epilepsy and implicated 11 new genes.

The researchers found that the majority of current anti-epileptic drugs directly target one or more of the associated genes and identified an additional 166 drugs that do the same. These drugs are promising new candidates for epilepsy therapy as they directly target the genetic basis of the disease.

Professor Gianpiero Cavalleri
FutureNeuro Deputy Director

“This work illustrates the power of scientists collaborating across countries and continents. Discovering these new genes for epilepsy provides important information towards novel treatments for the condition. This is another important step on the road towards curing the epilepsiesConducting a study of this size and scope is an incredible accomplishment that FutureNeuro were delighted to help lead. We look forward to building on the results of this study and strengthening international collaborations”

“In addition to the biological insights provided by the findings, this study will encourage researchers to develop personalised and precision therapies for patients with difficult and complex epilepsy. This will provide better seizure control and will enable improved quality of life for patients and families,” 

Dr. Norman Delanty
FutureNeuro Funded Investigator

Dr. Colin Doherty
FutureNeuro Principal Investigator and National Clinical Lead for Epilepsy

“We have appreciated for some time that genetics plays an important role in epilepsy, however, until now, relatively little was known about the specific genes responsible for the most common forms of the disorder. Identifying the genes that cause epilepsy is particularly important when we consider that a third of the 65 million patients worldwide will not become seizure free using current treatment options,” 

Over 150 researchers, based across Europe, Australia, Asia, South America and North America, carried out the research. They worked together as part of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) Consortium on Complex Epilepsies. The ILAE Consortium was formed by researchers in 2010. They recognised that the complexity of genetic and environmental factors underlying epilepsy would require research across massive datasets, and therefore unprecedented collaboration on an international scale. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) part-funded the study.

“An important role of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) is to help bring together groups of researchers from around the globe to enhance collaboration. The remarkable achievement of the ILAE Consortium on Complex Epilepsies demonstrates the power of collaboration and data sharing in genetics research in epilepsy.”

Samuel Wiebe
President, International League against Epilepsy

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