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ERUK Trustee Dr Rhys Thomas launches ‘Slight North Run’

Every September ERUK is lucky enough to have a team of dedicated supporters take on the Great North Run to raise money for research into epilepsy. Unfortunately, like so many other events, the coronavirus has forced the cancellation of the 2020 Great North Run. But that hasn’t stopped a determined team from Newcastle University and the Royal Victoria Infirmary, who instead have organised a special event all of their own! Headed up by one of ERUK’s very own Trustees, Dr Rhys Thomas, they have organised the Slight North Run.

Carried out by Dr Colin Reilly at University College London, the research looked at the lack of scientific understanding of epilepsy in autistic people and highlights the urgent need for greater research investment in this area.

As outlined in the report, autistic people with epilepsy face some of the starkest inequalities in the world. Approximately 8.4 million people have both conditions around the globe and on average have poorer quality of life, poorer health and shorter life expectancy. There has been an awareness of this for some time, but a lack of evidence-based strategic action has blocked progress.

The report aims to provide that evidence in order to support further research investment and highlights some important future research questions.

You can view the Autism and Epilepsy: Laying out the Evidence – Snapshot report here.

Dr Thomas said, “The Great North Run is a sporting and cultural highlight and one of the most important days of the year here in the North East. It usually starts in the shadow of Newcastle University and the Royal Victoria Infirmary, where our teams work. Every year thousands of runners raise millions for countless charities at this incredible event.

“On Sunday 20th September, teams from both institutes will run 100 miles on the town moor. Please come along to support us by cheering us on from a safe distance and donating to Epilepsy Research UK.

“As well as raising funds, we would like to raise awareness that the North East has the highest rate of epilepsy in England, with 1% of adults here taking medication for the condition. But epilepsy is more than just seizures, and life changing, life saving research is chronically underfunded and desperately needed.”

Newcastle University is a prestigious centre of research and is home to many ERUK-funded projects, including Mr Ashan Jayasekera’s work.  Ashan is a neurosurgical trainee and researcher and is developing a non-invasive scanning technique to map the regions of the brain around a tumour which are responsible for a patient’s seizures.

Brain tumours can often cause seizures, even after surgery when the tumour has been removed. Seizures in patients with brain tumours are common but are debilitating and difficult to treat. Ashan is investigating whether high levels of glutamate – a neurotransmitter used by cells in the brain to communicate with each other – can cause seizures in patients with brain tumours. If this is the case, surgeons will be able to map brain tumour removal surgery more accurately so that patients will have fewer seizures.

This research could be transformative if it allows surgeons to non-invasively map the ‘unhealthy’ seizure generating regions of the brain around tumours and plan their surgeries to improve seizure control for patients.

This potentially life changing, life saving research has only been made possible thanks to you, our incredible supporters.

Find out more about the ‘Slight North Run’ and support the teams’ efforts on Dr Rhys Thomas’ fundraising page here.

Find out more about Mr Ashan Jayasekera’s ERUK-funded project here.

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