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$40,000 grant supports UTHSC epilepsy research

Mark S. Shapiro, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC), has been awarded $40,000 by the National Epilepsy Foundation for research of the disorder.

"Epilepsy is characterized by uncontrolled electrical currents in the brain," Dr. Shapiro said. "We will study the mechanism of two drugs that can treat epilepsy by reducing electrical activity and excitability in the nervous system." The drugs act by affecting proteins called potassium channels that produce electricity in nerve cells.

"We will record the minute electrical currents in individual living cells," he said. "Using tools of molecular biology, we will learn how the drugs work by manipulating the amino acids that constitute the channel proteins. This study should help in the development of novel medical treatments for epilepsy."

During a seizure, neurons may fire as many as 500 times a second, much faster than the normal rate of about 80 times a second, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). More than 2 million people in the United States have experienced an unprovoked seizure or been diagnosed with epilepsy, according to the NINDS.

The NINDS and the American Heart Association-Texas Affiliate provide further support for Dr. Shapiro's research of brain and heart electrical abnormalities.

Contact: Will Sansom