On Friday 23rd of February, Professor David Henshall, the Director of FutureNeuro was a guest speaker at the RCSI Neuroscience Society’s Insight into Epilepsy Event.
The event, which was a collaboration between Epilepsy Ireland and RCSI Neuroscience Society was aimed at health sciences students with an interest in neurology and epilepsy. The focus of the night was on the impact and management of epilepsy as well as the current research that is taking place.
Joining Prof. Henshall as a guest speaker was Sinead Matson from Epilepsy Ireland, a former teacher who was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2014 after suffering a brain tumour.
In his talk, David outlined the science behind epilepsy and seizures and highlighted some of the differences that may occur in the brain and genes of someone who has epilepsy.
Epilepsy can be genetic or as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
He explained that during a seizure, neurons fire all at once rather than one at a time, which is not how the brain is supposed to work. This affects different people in different ways as there are over 40 different kinds of seizures with various degrees of severity.
There are currently about 20 drugs to treat epilepsy, but unfortunately, these only work for about 70% of people with the condition.
When it comes to genetic illnesses, he presented stark statistics about how current drugs target less than 0.04% of the information in the human genome, meaning there are huge possibilities for discovering drugs that can target the 99.96% of the genome that is currently unavailable to us.
"Epigenetic changes help determine whether genes are turned on or off and can influence the production of proteins in certain cells, ensuring that only necessary proteins are produced"
The second keynote speaker was Sinead Matson, who is a volunteer with Epilepsy Ireland. Sinead outlined her experience with epilepsy, since she developed the condition after her doctors discovered that she had a brain tumour in 2014, just weeks after she gave birth to her second child.
She highlighted the inaccurate information that is given to patients about epilepsy, even from healthcare professionals and outlined what life is like for someone learning to manage the condition.
Speaking about some of the difficulties she endured, she spoke of the heartbreak she felt at not being allowed to be alone with her newborn, or having to wait to board a flight while the crew decided if they were comfortable with her being on the plane, despite the fact that her doctors gave their clearance.
She finished by urging the students in the room to speak more to patients themselves and to empower them to do the things they want to do. She sang the praises of the Epilepsy Nurse Helpline, her doctors and her neurologist, FutureNeuro collaborator, Norman Delanty who empowered and listened to her when she wanted to pursue her PhD and travel to India on her own.
You can view Sineads entire talk below: