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UCLA develops unique nerve-stimulation epilepsy treatment

A unique nerve-stimulation treatment for epilepsy developed at UCLA offers a potential new alternative for tens of thousands of individuals unable to control their seizures with medication and ineligible for surgery.

Developed by neuroscientists at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Valencia, Calif.-based Advanced Bionics Corp., trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS) uses a "brain pacemaker" to stimulate a nerve involved in inhibiting seizures.

The trigeminal nerve extends into the brain from the face and forehead, and is known to play a role in seizure inhibition. The stimulator and electrodes used to transmit an electrical current to the nerve can be worn externally or implanted.

A study published in the July edition of the peer-reviewed journal Epilepsia reports that four of seven subjects who used an external stimulator for at least three months in a pilot human clinical trial enjoyed a 50 percent or better reduction in seizure frequency.

"Most people with chronic epilepsy who have continuing seizures are drug-resistant," said Dr. Christopher DeGiorgio, vice chair and professor in residence of neurology at UCLA, and co-developer of TNS and lead author of the study. "In addition, anti-seizure drugs can have significant side effects on behavior, thinking and alertness. Women taking anti-seizure drugs and their unborn children are at special risk because of the effect of these drugs on fetal growth and development.

"For all of these reasons, we need to find non-drug alternative treatments," DeGiorgio said. "The results of our pilot study support further investigation into the safety and efficacy of TNS for epilepsy."

Forty percent of the 2.5 million people in the United States with epilepsy have poorly controlled seizures. Recurrent seizures lead to social isolation, unemployment, inability to drive and injuries from falls and burns, as well as drowning. Approved treatment options inc
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Contact: Dan Page
dpage@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
25-Jul-2006


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