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A narrow focus for epilepsy treatment

Visualization of a brain as a network of connected nodes

In promising progress toward a new treatment for neurological disorders, a team of researchers including UVA professor Kevin S. Lee in the Department of Neuroscience has demonstrated in animal models the effectiveness of a noninvasive therapy for temporal lobe epilepsy. About one-third of epilepsy patients don’t respond well to anti-seizure medications, Lee explains, but there is no current non-drug treatment that can target only the cells causing the problem without damaging surrounding cells. However, utilizing low-intensity focused ultrasound, a noninvasive technique using focused beams of sound, Lee and his team have been able briefly to open a precise “porthole” in the blood-brain barrier to deliver a drug only to the cells targeted for treatment. “We selectively eliminate neurons we are targeting but spare everything else,” Lee says. Noting that epilepsy can be a debilitating disease that severely impedes quality of life, Lee says, “We are trying to develop a new generation of noninvasive treatment that will improve the lives of those who are suffering.”