Ian Wenker, PhD, an assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology, was recently awarded an R01 grant from NINDS entitled “The Neural Circuitry of Seizure-Induced Apnea” and an Exploration-Hypothesis Development Award from the DOD, providing over $2.2 million in funding over the next five years. The projects aim to investigate mechanisms of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) in mouse models of epilepsy.
SUDEP is the sudden and unexpected death of a person with epilepsy, which accounts for up to 17% of mortality for all epilepsy patients. Currently, there are no treatments for SUDEP and its underlying causes are not understood. Dr. Wenker’s work in mouse models has already established that breathing cessation, or apnea, during seizures causes fatality; an observation that fits well with the limited clinical data.
This new funding enables further mechanistic studies using novel mouse models and cutting-edge neurophysiological approaches to identify the brainstem neural circuitry responsible for initiating respiratory arrest during seizures and exploring how this contributes to fatality. The overarching goal is to understand the underlying causes of seizure-induced apnea and identify suitable targets for intervention.
Wenker’s collaborator on these projects is Jaideep Kapur, MD, in the Department of Neurology at UVA.
Learn more at Wenker Lab.