Center for SUDEP Research established

Tue, 2014-12-16 (All day)

The Center for SUDEP Research is a new initiative that has been established to study Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). This virtual center includes over 40 clinicians and scientists from 14 institutes across the U.S. and U.K. This five-year research project is being supported with a $27.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and brings together many of the leaders in the field of SUDEP research.

SUDEP is the sudden and premature death of a person with epilepsy without apparent or known cause of death. It is the most common cause of premature mortality for people with epilepsy. Individuals with refractory epilepsy have a 35% lifetime chance of succumbing to SUDEP. There are currently no targeted treatments or devices available to prevent it. The cause of SUDEP is unknown, but research efforts have centered on structural and/or functional defects in brain areas that control cardiovascular and respiratory functions. Such abnormalities can cause breathing and heart rate disruptions following a seizure, which in a subset of cases, are catastrophic and lead to sudden death.

The Center is composed of a multidisciplinary group of investigators with expertise in molecular biology, genetics, neuropathology, electrophysiology, brain imaging, epilepsy, cardiology, and bioinformatics. The team will be involved in nine projects that combine basic research and clinical findings with the common goal of quickly taking SUDEP lab results into the clinic.

Drs. Orrin Devinsky and Daniel Friedman are involved in two of the Center’s projects. The first project will investigate autonomic and neuroimaging biomarkers of SUDEP. Changes in brain structures in people with epilepsy will be examined and linked to abnormal breathing patterns and cardiac arrhythmias that occur during seizures. These studies will provide insights into mechanisms that lead to a fatal scenario and suggest pre-mortem indications and risk factors that identify those most at risk of SUDEP.

The second project will investigate neuropathologic changes associated with SUDEP. Researchers will collect postmortem brain tissue from individuals who have died from SUDEP as well as tissue from patients who are at high risk for SUDEP that have undergone epilepsy surgery. A variety of immunohistochemistry and microscopy studies will be performed to examine the role of brainstem dysfunction and the role of two key neurotransmitters, adenosine and serotonin, in SUDEP.

“Over the past 5 years there has been a tremendous increase in SUDEP research”, says Daniel Friedman, MD. “The Center for SUDEP Research has gathered together the leaders in the field and we hope to capitalize on their momentum, innovation, and diverse array of skills to figure out why SUDEP occurs and how we can prevent it.”

For further information about the Center for SUDEP Research:

To learn more about SUDEP:


Posted: December 16 2014