More than three million Americans suffer from epilepsy. Not knowing when or if a seizure will strike can make living life difficult.

Most people can take medications to control it, but experts say up to 30% of people who have epilepsy don’t respond to drug therapy. For the first time, a new experimental cell therapy is aimed at eliminating seizures without medication or invasive brain surgery.

They can strike anytime, anywhere. A new clinical trial for epilepsy is using a regenerative brain cell procedure to help stop seizures.

“Our goal there is to, actually, achieve seizure freedom,” said Dr. Sharona Ben-Haim, neurosurgeon at UC San Diego Health.

Standard epilepsy treatment begins with medications, then removal of the parts of the brain causing the seizures. But experts say there is a risk of damaging healthy brain tissue.

Now, doctors at UC San Diego are using MRI guidance to pinpoint the exact area causing the seizures, then, cells derived from stem cells are injected.

“This therapy offers us the opportunity to not destroy tissue, but to, actually, rehabilitate it and recover it,” explained Dr. Jerry Shih, neurologist and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at UC San Diego Health.

The first patient they treated was a 38-year-old man who had five to eight seizures a month. Two months after the procedure, his seizures decreased.

“He’s had better than a 95% reduction in his seizures, which is tremendous,” said Dr. Shih.

Doctors hope that, as time goes by, he may even become seizure-free.

The very first patient to have regenerative cell therapy in New York experienced 30 seizures a month and now, a year after treatment, is seizure-free.

Both patients are part of a national clinical trial. Patients who participate must have temporal lobe epilepsy and will be monitored regularly for two years after the procedure.


Source:, Melanie Falcon