Posttraumatic epilepsy: The challenge of translating discoveries in the laboratory to pathways to a cure


Address correspondence to Marc A. Dichter, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Neurology, University of Pennsylvania, HUP, 3 W Gates, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, U.S.A. E-mail:


Translating laboratory discoveries into successful therapies for preventing epilepsy is a difficult task, but preventing epilepsy in those who are known to be at high risk needs to be one of our highest priorities. At present, we need to approach this task as a parallel set of research endeavors—one concentrating on laboratory experiments designed to learn how to prevent epilepsy after brain trauma and the other focusing on how to perform the appropriate clinical research in humans to demonstrate that whatever is discovered in the laboratory can be appropriately tested. It is too important to let the second process await conclusion of the first. Initially, we need to create a consortium of groups in trauma centers that are dedicated to antiepileptogenic studies and develop funding sources for long-term studies. We need to experiment with clinical protocols, making the studies as cost-effective as possible, while performing continuous data mining of outcomes and surrogate markers. The limitations of current technology to assist in antiepileptogenesis trials must be acknowledged: There is no currently available method for continuously monitoring electroencephalography (EEG) over prolonged periods, and there are no validated biomarkers for the process of epileptogenesis. As we learn more about the process of epileptogenesis and its underlying mechanisms, it is hoped that we will be able to prevent the development of epilepsy after traumatic brain injury (TBI) and after many other known epileptogenic lesions.