Mother-turned- PhD epilepsy specialist to share her story on International Epilepsy Day
When her daughter Savannah was diagnosed with a rare but severe form of epilepsy, Dr Dixon-Salazar began a 12-year journey from stay-at-home mum to PhD neuroscientist and epilepsy genetics researcher.
She has since been responsible for the discovery of a number of genes underlying this common neurological condition. Through sequencing her daughter’s DNA and identifying specific genetic mutations, Dr Dixon-Salazar was able to identify an existing drug not used in epilepsy that in Savannah’s case worked remarkably well in controlling her seizures.
Today, inspired by Savannah and motivated to help others like her, Dr Dixon-Salazar heads the Epilepsy Genetics Initiative (EGI), a major American research project run by the CURE organisation that aims to revolutionise how epilepsy is treated by driving the development of genetic-based personalised medicine.
On Monday night, she will discuss her own personal journey and talk about the importance of early genetic testing in people with epilepsy so that causes can be identified and where possible, targeted interventions made. This, rather than the current practice of trial and error, she says, is the future of epilepsy treatment. Currently, a cause cannot be identified in 60-70 per cent of people with epilepsy.
Dr Dixon-Salazar believes that ongoing research efforts may be able to identify cures for certain types of epilepsy in the not too distant future. Her determination is bringing hope of a brighter future to millions of families around the world affected by epilepsy.