Friday, December 9, 2005
Carnegie Mellon Neuroscientist Alison Barth Receives Grant to Develop a Therapy to Prevent Seizures
PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Alison Barth has received one of two grant awards from the Milken Family Foundation to accelerate the development of a novel therapy to treat epilepsy. The grants were announced at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society on Dec. 5.
According to the Epilepsy Research Foundation and the Milken Family Foundation, Barth received the $50,000 award to support her research "on the development of a new therapy with the potential to reverse an acquired channelopathy [ion channel dysfunction] that increases neuronal excitability and the risk of a chronic seizure disorder following a first seizure."
Barth has developed a novel approach to study the electrical activity of neurons following a seizure. Seizures typically result from an electrical disturbance in the brain. Recent findings from Barth's lab show that the abnormal electrical activity of neurons following a seizure can be restored to normal by blocking a specific ion channel. Ion channels allow electrically charged atoms (or ions) into and out of cells. This activity starts and stops the electrical impulses by which neurons communicate with one another.
"The fact that this channel, which has been implicated in familial epilepsy, has been linked to generalized seizures in normal subjects points to a common therapeutic pathway that may help a lot of people," said Barth, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the Mellon College of Science (MCS).
The Epilepsy Research Foundation (www.epilepsyfoundation.org) is interested in speeding the development of innovative translational research in producing new therapies and a cure for epilepsy.
The Milken Family Foundation (www.mff.org) was established in 1982 by brothers Lowell and Michael Milken to discover and advance inventive, effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives.
MCS develops innovative research and educational programs in biological sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics and several interdisciplinary areas. For more information, visit www.cmu.edu/mcs.
By: Lauren Ward