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At present around one in three of the people living with epilepsy do not have access to any effective form of treatment – equivalent to around 200,000 Britons.
Now, however, there are hopes that pioneering research involving fish and invertebrates such as worms might pave the way for new breakthroughs.
The findings may mean that new therapies eventually become available for those who have, up until now, been denied medication.
Alistair Jones, a PhD student from the University of Liverpool, acknowledged that scientists hadn’t known much about the actual causes of epilepsy until relatively recently.
In an article published in The Independent last month, he said: “This has led to a large proportion of research being conducted using chemically induced seizures in rodents.
“Many drugs that can reduce seizures in these models have become the epilepsy treatments that are prescribed today.
“But although this has led to effective drugs being developed for most people with epilepsy, it has provided no options for refractory (drug-resistant) epilepsy.”
Now however, improved understanding of the DNA mutation which causes the neurological condition has given scientists more options for implanting the faulty genes into different types of animals.
In particular there is likely to be a renewed emphasis on research involving species such as the zebrafish and roundworm.
Mr Jones added: “It is difficult to make a direct comparison between these simple organisms and humans, but by rapidly providing a large amount of functional information, before progressing to tests in animals, simple creatures – like worms and fish – could reduce the cost of animal research.
“So using these models as a frontline screening tool may save time, money and effort in drug development.”
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