Childhood epilepsy is a disorder of repeated seizures that affects about 1 percent of children. It is the most frequent chronic neurologic condition in childhood, and genetic factors underlie the disease in more than a third of these patients.

The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC recently recruited neuroscientist Matthew Weston to investigate this seizure activity, particularly how specific genetic variants that cause childhood epilepsy regulate brain activity.

“Some of these children have dozens of seizures a week, which significantly impacts their quality of life and can impair neurological development,” Weston said. “We’re examining the genes, cells, and critical time points of development that influence synaptic changes underlying epilepsy to find new, targeted therapeutic approaches for epilepsy.”

Weston’s laboratory, slated to open in August, studies a handful of genes that encode proteins to regulate healthy brain function. Abnormal protein levels or impaired function can trigger uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain.