Physician Stories

Tissue Samples From Surgery May Offer Hope in the Treatment of Epilepsy

Goodman Campbell pediatric neurosurgeon, Jodi Smith works to advance epilepsy research in the study: Electrophysiological Analysis of Epileptogenic Tissue.

Epilepsy, a common neurological disorder of childhood, affects between 0.5 to 1.0% of the population in the US and Canada, with up to 50% of these cases occurring before 5 years of age. Scientists know that epilepsy is a combination of neurons in the brain being overly ‘excited’ and lacking the normal process of working together in an orderly fashion. However, the way this process works remains a mystery.

The first-line treatment for children with epilepsy is anticonvulsant medication. Yet, in about 30% of cases, seizures persist. Side effects from medication and repeated seizures can lead to progressive deterioration in intellectual and behavioral functions. Some patients may benefit from surgical intervention. Studying the properties of tissue removed during surgery may help gain a better understanding of epilepsy and make progress toward finding a cure.

In order to dive deeper into the study and treatment of epilepsy, Dr. Jodi Smith and her colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Witkin, created the Laboratory of Antiepileptic Drug Discovery at Ascension St. Vincent. The laboratory is the result of the generous support of The Henry and Nellie Pence Foundation. Over the past 15 years Dr. Smith has focused her research on epilepsy. To date, this has resulted in the discovery of 2 drugs currently in development. 

When asked about her role, Dr. Smith replied, “As the neurosurgeon who creates an opportunity for children with a seizure focus to be seizure free, I have seen firsthand the remarkable blessings that come into the lives of child and family alike with the removal of the life-encumbering and life-threatening burden and stigma of epilepsy.”

Erin Delaney, a clinical research coordinator who works with Dr. Smith stated “The way Dr. Smith cares for her patients is truly inspiring. This research effort is a testament to her selfless dedication to the medical community. Research is the first step in driving medical treatments forward. Having even the slightest supportive role in this development is incredibly rewarding.”

To learn more about Dr. Smith’s research and publications, click on the provided links. 

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