Wayne State MD/PhD student receives fellowship from the Epilepsy Foundation of AmericaMay 21, 2008
Daniel Barkmeier, a Wayne State MD/PhD student and resident of Romulus, MI and Champaign, IL, has been awarded a $20,000 predoctoral fellowship from the Epilepsy Foundation of America for his work with animal models that simulate epileptic events in the brain. Barkmeier works in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Loeb, associate professor of Neurology, and the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, and associate director of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics in the School of Medicine at WSU.
Barkmeier's fellowship will fund an investigation of an integral but little-understood aspect of epilepsy - the minor, more frequent discharges of abnormal brain activity that occur in between seizures, called interictal spikes.
"While seizures are what you think of clinically with epilepsy, they don't occur that often," Barkmeier said. "Interictal spikes are much smaller, but can occur 100 times an hour; multiple times a minute. We think these frequent spikes are key in understanding the abnormal connections in the brain."
Past research suggests that the mechanisms behind interictal spikes may indeed provide important information about the disease, Dr. Loeb said. "Studies on human epileptic brain tissues have identified a set of genes that are activated in the epileptic parts of the brain when compared to non-epileptic parts of the same patient's brain," he said. "However, the amount of gene activation did not correlate with seizure activity, but with the amount of interictal spiking in that area of the brain."
Barkmeier is currently developing an electrical model that will simulate interictal spikes, in hopes to determine whether this type of brain activity alone can induce the gene changes responsible for epilepsy.
Loeb said incorporating interictal spikes into the epilepsy model will give researchers a better idea of how the disease can be prevented, treated, and even cured.
"The closer the animal model is to the human disorder, the more likely a new drug developed using that model will actually work in patients with epilepsy," he said. "The funding that Dan has received from the Epilepsy Foundation will support him during this challenging and exciting project."
Wayne State University is one of the nation's pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world.
- Contact: Julie O'Connor
- Voice: (313) 577-8845
- Email: email@example.com
- Fax: (313) 577-3626