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About Sickkids
About SickKids

January 29, 2009

Repatriated Canadian scientist leads an international study on the discovery of the first gene linked to the most common form of epilepsy

Lisa Strug a Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Assistant Professor, Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, was the lead author of a paper
published today in the online issue of the European Journal of Human Genetics, in advance of the print edition.

Strug originally from Canada, left Columbia University in October 2007 to join SickKids and continue her work in mapping complex disease genes.

An international team conducted the research primarily based out of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, that uncovered a gene linked to Rolandic epilepsy. One out of every five children with epilepsy is diagnosed with this form.

The research findings shed light on the possible causes of common childhood epilepsies and will hopefully result in the development of more effective treatments.

Children with Rolandic epilepsy and other similar forms are treated with drugs that prevent seizures by suppressing electricity in the entire brain.

“If we could determine the role genetics plays in epilepsy, then we could try to stop or reverse the processes that lead to seizures and ultimately improve on treatment,” says Strug.

Researchers found a gene linked to Rolandic epilepsy called ELP4 on chromosome 11.
The discovery of genes like ELP4 is changing how some scientists view the cause of some common epilepsies. Traditionally epilepsy is believed to stem from changes in the brain's ion channels. Now it's possible the disorders stem from the way the brain's neurons connect during development.

This theory may explain why children with epilepsy have other learning and behaviour problems. If that is the case, the study could also provide some insight into the causes of other developmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivitiy disorder (ADHD), speech dyspraxia, and developmental co-ordination disorder.

Strug's research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and The Hospital for Sick Children's New Ideas Grant Program and the SickKids Foundation.

For more information please contact:

Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Suite 1742, Public Affairs, First floor Atrium
Toronto, ON
M5G 1X8
Phone: 416-813-5058
Fax: 416-813-5328