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Epilepsy Research Institute partners with MRC to fund Clinical Research Training Fellowship

This year the Epilepsy Research Institute is proud to partner with the Medical Research Council (MRC) to co-fund a Clinical Research Training Fellowship (CRTF), as part of our 2024 Research Awards. Announced on National Epilepsy Week, we were delighted to award the funding to Dr Oliver Davis from the University of Cambridge – who is investigating if DNA misfolding can cause neurodevelopmental disorders, such as epilepsy.

What is DNA misfolding?

The DNA in our cells must be folded and stored correctly to give instructions to the cell and allow it to function properly. If the DNA misfolds or is not stored properly, it may not be able to instruct the cell to function in the appropriate way. For neurons, this misfolding could affect the cell’s ability to stimulate or inhibit electrical activity in the brain.

How can this cause epilepsy?

In epilepsy, there is an imbalance of electrical activity in the brain and seizures can occur when there is a sudden burst of activity. DNA misfolding is a potential reason this imbalance in stimulatory and inhibitory activity occurs.

How will this research project help people affected by epilepsy?

This study will investigate two genes that control DNA folding (called FOXG1 and CHD2). Using cells in a dish to model a brain, the team will investigate what impact turning off these genes has on DNA folding and if this influences the number of cells that inhibit electrical activity. This study will shed light on how genes that control DNA folding contribute to the balance of electrical activity in our brains. Future research could build on this to find new treatments that target the genes to benefit those living with epilepsy.

Dr Oliver Davis said;
“The findings of this study will provide some much-needed insight into how genes with DNA folding functions impact how our brains develop. This will be important medically, as it opens up the possibility that DNA misfolding is a mechanism for how some forms of epilepsy arise (particularly those that are hard to treat and co-occur with other neurological conditions). Critically, this will provide new targets for scientists to design diagnostic tests or drugs for treatments, which could really help to improve the care of patients with hard-to-treat forms of epilepsy.”

Rosemarie Pardington, Epilepsy Research Institute Chief Executive said;

“We are proud to have a strong history of partnering with charities and stakeholders for our annual research awards, and this year is no exception. The MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship will help to develop an early career researcher into a future leader in epilepsy research, and we’re thrilled to have awarded it to Dr Oliver Davis. His promising project has the potential to transform the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy for the 1 in 100 people living with epilepsy.”

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