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31-10-2014 | Two Australian doctors share Prize for Science for epilepsy research

31 October 2014
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Earlier this week we reported how Epilepsy Ireland is to partner with the Royal College of Surgeons and the Irish Research Council in supporting a new project.  The researcher Dr Heavin has trained in epileptology and the genetics of epilepsy with Prof. Ingrid Scheffer and Prof. Sam Berkovic at the Epilepsy Research Centre at the University of Melbourne.

Professor SAM Berkovic and Professor Ingrid Scheffer will share Australia's top science award for pioneering research on epilepsy. Of the 50 genes known to play a role in epilepsy, these two researchers have helped to discover over a dozen of them. 

They have received many separate awards and prizes for their work but this is the first time they have been recognised jointly. Their worked has earned them Australia's top research award, the $300,000 Prime Minister's Prize for Science, which they received at a ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra. 

The two researchers have been instrumental in clearly establishing the genetic basis for certain types of epilepsy such as Dravet syndrome. 

The researchers found that multiple genes contribute to epilepsy, some may involve interactions with the environment, but that the bulk of these genes are an inheritance of biological features, and others are not inherited at all. Genetic mutations found in persons with epilepsy but not in their parents are proving to be more important than previously believed. Epilepsy genes affect similar pathways and this is can help in developing drugs to treat epilepsy more effectively. 

"We're now able to explain the cause of the epilepsy in a much larger proportion of cases than we were able to in the past," says Berkovic. "We have something that's really tangible to work with in terms of trying to help or reverse the problem."

Source: The Australian News and ABC Science

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