Scientific Breakthrough: Meet the Woman Helping to Predict Seizures Before They Happen

Dr Marion Hogg, postdoctoral researcher in FutureNeuro, the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases, hosted at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland), studied at the Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh before moving to Ireland to join RCSI in 2011. Since then she has been researching RNA processing in Motor Neuron Disease (MND), and more recently, as part of her work in FutureNeuro, epilepsy. She hopes to start her own independent research group in the future.

THE BREAKTHROUGH We have identified a molecular signature in blood that could indicate when someone with epilepsy is going to have a seizure. INNOVATIVE THINKING This discovery has the potential to allow someone with epilepsy to have greater control over their life. We now aim to develop a test, similar to a finger prick monitor for diabetes, that would allow people to predict if they are going to have a seizure within a few hours. In the future, this could mean that people with epilepsy may be able to reduce or withdraw from long-term medication, thereby reducing the negative side-effects that can be associated with these drugs, and only take medicines when a seizure is imminent. Experiments often have unexpected outcomes and there are opportunities to make new links and connections all the time. THORNY CHALLENGE I joined RCSI to investigate cellular processes in MND and began investigating these molecules, which are produced in response to stress. Through our collaborative work in FutureNeuro, we then realised that although the type of stress is quite different, they might also play a role in epilepsy, so we started a new avenue of investigation which led to this discovery. LATEST PROVOCATIVE IDEA I would love to know what would happen if we targeted these molecules – if we increase or decrease the levels of these molecules a person has, can we reduce the severity of the subsequent seizure? FLIPPING THE FEMININE STEREOTYPE I don’t believe there is a “female way of doing things”, but having said that I probably wouldn’t conform to the stereotype of what is expected from a woman. I have always been outspoken and opinionated, traits that are not classically seen as “feminine”.

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