Combining Technology and Expertise to Discover New Genes in Epilepsy
“Wayne State’s epilepsy program is one of the best I have seen,” said Dr. Jeffrey Loeb. “I came from Harvard and they had nothing like it.” Excellence in epilepsy research and treatment is one of the reasons Dr. Loeb joined the WSU School of Medicine in 1998 and now excellence is the basis for a major research collaboration with the biotechnology company AlphaGene Inc.
This academic-industry partnership seeks to identify the genes involved in disease pathways for epilepsy and to locate logical points for drug intervention. AlphaGene became interested in technology used by Dr. Loeb and his colleagues in the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program. This technology monitors areas of the brain affected by epileptic seizures. Although many patients use medical treatment, many require surgery to reduce or eliminate life-restricting seizures. Dr. Loeb, a faculty member in the Department of Neurology and the Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, has collected an impressive bank of disease tissue that may be used for testing and discovering the molecular basis of epilepsy.
In this collaboration, WSU provides brain tissue samples from patients with epilepsy. AlphaGene provides gene chips for testing on custom microarrays that enable simultaneous screening of thousands of human genes. WSU and AlphaGene hope to discover both novel and known genes responsible for epilepsy by identifying genes that are abnormally expressed at locations where the seizures are coming from. AlphaGene has a powerful suite of technologies to generate and analyze differential gene expression data.
“We believe that by combining our technologies and expertise, we will gain a better insight into the genetic causes of the disease,” said Donald McCarren, PhD, president and chief executive officer of AlphaGene.
Dr. Loeb is also conducting exciting research related to the formation of synapses in the nervous system, as well as on other clinical disorders, including multiple sclerosis, cancer and brain calcifications. His work on functional genomics in epilepsy is part of a larger effort at WSU, where molecular approaches are combined with clinical and neuroimaging studies.
“We are putting together everything we know about epilepsy with our genomic results, including physiology, anatomy, PET and MRI,” Dr. Loeb said. “This will give us a really good handle on the molecular basis of epilepsy and help us develop new and exciting treatments.”
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