Renewed hope for people with Epilepsy
Melbourne University, a leader in research on reversing the epilepsy condition, has recently discovered the substance "sodium selenate" which they say can help prevent epilepsy after a head injury. While there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that sodium selenate will cure epilepsy, early signs indicate that it can certainly help to reverse the brain condition.
For the team at Melbourne University driving this research, the next step is to run clinical trials with 2 groups of people who have incurred head injuries. The two groups will be tested at one and two yearly intervals to track and document any change in epileptic symptoms and cognitive abilities. The hypothesis is that the group treated with sodium selenate will show lowered epileptic symptoms and higher cognitive abilities in comparison with the group not treated with sodium selenate. If the results are positive in these trials, and in concurrent animal tests on sodium selenate, then further clinical trials on people with epilepsy will commence in earnest to investigate whether sodium selenate can help to reverse epilepsy to the point where it eliminates seizures completely.
How you can support the next stage of clinical trials.
If you, or someone you know with epilepsy, are interested in participating in the clinical trials when they go to market, please email Dinesh from Energy Pledge at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, if you are interested in helping the team raise funds to assist with these the clinical trials, click the ‘Support’ button above, provide your details and request a call back. Someone from Energy Pledge will be in touch immediately to let you know how you can support the research using our no cost fundraising model. If you want to speak to us directly, give us a call on 1300 882 505.
An Interview with Professor O'Brien
Professor Terence O'Brien is the James Stewart Professor of Medicine and Head of the Department of Medicine at Melbourne University and consultant neurologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He and his team are the drivers behind this research towards what Professor O’Brien terms as, the 'Holy Grail' which is to establish a disease-modifying drug for epilepsy.
Energy Pledge talked with Professor Terence O'Brien about this 'Holy Grail' which would give people with epilepsy full control of their lives again. Read on for key parts of the interview.
What is Sodium Selenate?
Prof O'Brien - Sodium selenate is a substance found in low doses in some supplements. What makes it unique is that it activates an enzyme in our bodies called PP2A, which removes phosphates from the tau protein, which is the underlying driver in neurodegeneration after head injury and in conditions like Alzheimer's disease.
How does this prevent epilepsy?
Prof O'Brien - When the brain or head is injured, there is a surge of phosphorylated tau. When these phosphates are removed, the tau protein becomes less soluble and less toxic which means it is not able to build up and cause brain damage. In animal treatment trials, sodium selenate is found to remove the phosphates which then negates the surge and prevents not only epilepsy, but many of the downstream effects such as neurocognitive problems, thinking problems, emotional problems and brain atrophy.
Is it currently available in the market?
Prof O'Brien - It is in vitamin supplements, but at very low levels which are not high enough to activate the PP2A enzyme. The dose that is required to activate PP2A is a hundred times what you can get in vitamin supplements.
What's the next step to help reverse epilepsy?
- We've We've actually just started an animal experiment. The first thing is to take animals at the fully developed epilepsy stage and treat them with sodium selenate to see whether it reverses or mitigates their epilepsy and whether it has a long-standing sustained effect. We know that if we treat these animals with anti-epileptic drugs, they will have fewer seizures while the drugs are still active in their systems. However, as soon as the drugs are stopped, the epilepsy returns at its initial severity, which is what we see in humans. So we're hoping this treatment with sodium selenate will cause a long term decrease in the epilepsy in these animals. If the animal experiments are positive, then we move to clinical trials involving people with established epilepsy.
How will differ from existing drugs used for epilepsy?
Prof O'Brien - There are currently 17 different drugs available for the treatment of epilepsy in Australia but all of them are a form of seizure suppressant and none of them have long term benefits. Approximately 30% of patients, even with these seizure suppressant drugs, still continue to have seizures.So if you’re in that 30%, you can try all 17 drugs and you still can’t perform certain cognitive dependent tasks like driving. The whole idea is if we could get a 'disease modifying treatment’, it would be either remove the epilepsy completely or, it makes it less severe and drug responsive. So that 30% would see decrease in their epilepsy related symptoms and more people could get their life back.
Are there early signs that Sodium Selenate will reverse epilepsy?
Prof O'Brien - There's reason to believe it might, absolutely, but to be fair we haven't tested that specifically yet. That's what we're starting to do now. So we know it can prevent epilepsy, but we don't know it can effectively cure it at this stage. There's reasons to believe it may well, so we're pretty excited about the prospect that our research can prove that.
So when will you start the research for curing epilepsy?
Prof O'Brien - We're ready to go to the clinical trials for ‘prevention’. We're not ready to go to the clinical trials for ‘cure’ yet. We want to demonstrate that it works in animals. If it doesn't work in animals, then it’s probably not going to work in humans.
If you were to receive additional funds, how could this be used to help further your research?
- Where everyone needs investment is for clinical trials. When you’re looking at a disease modifying treatment, you have to monitor people for a year or more which makes these types of clinical trials incredibly expensive. Plus, you can virtually never fund them entirely with grants and academic funding so if there was some fundraising, it would be really helpful in actually taking this to clinical trials.