Epilepsy Research Laboratory //

Epilepsy is a serious and common chronic neurologic disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, which are caused by abnormal synchronized neuronal discharges. As many as 6 million people in Europe currently have active epilepsy. This has major implications not only for health, but also for independent living, education and employment, mobility, and personal relationships.

Our research goal is to understand the mechanisms that lead to the development of epilepsy after brain injury (e.g., caused by traumatic brain injury, status epilepticus), to identify biomarkers that indicate ongoing epileptogenesis and predict the development of epilepsy, and identify novel treatment targets to stop the development of epilepsy or to modify the disease process in such a way that epilepsy that develops is milder and easier to treat.

We have an extensive program of collaboration with other groups inside the A.I. Virtanen Institute, Kuopio University Hospital, Turku University Hospital, and neuroscientists in the USA, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, UK, The Netherlands, Poland, and the Czech Republic. In addition we collaborate with multinational pharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments for epilepsy.

Research interest

  • to develop clinically relevant models of acquired epilepsy
  • to understand the molecular mechanisms of acquired epileptogenesis
  • to identify novel treatment targets for antiepileptogenesis and disease modification
  • to find biomarkers for epileptogenesis and functional outcome after brain injury

Main achievements

  • development of new clinically relevant models of epilepsy, in which epileptogenic process is initiated by status epilepticus or traumatic brain injury
  • the first demonstration of disease-modification of the epileptogenic process by pharmacotherapy
  • identification of mechanisms of molecular changes during epileptogenesis (ongoing)
  • multimodal MRI imaging of neuronal tissue changes during epileptogenic process (together with Prof. Olli Gröhn's group at A.I. Virtanen Institute )

Methodological approach

Most of the research is done in experimental models of epilepsy. We also examine tissue from patients, work we do in collaboration with the Pathology and Neurosurgery Departments of the University Hospital. In our studies we apply various methods that range from classical neuroanatomy, molecular analysis (gene array, proteomics, bioinformatics), single-cell electrophysiology to behavior and magnetic resonance imaging of epileptic process.

Selected publications

  1. Debski KJ, Pitkänen A, Puhakka N, Khurana I, Kaipananickal H, Zieman M, Kaspi A, El-Osta A, Blumcke I, Lukasiuk K, Kobow K. Etiology matters – Comparing genomic DNA methylation patterns in three rat models of acquired epilepsy. Sci Rep; in press.
  2. Miszczuk D, Debski KJ, Tanila H, Lukasiuk H, Pitkänen A. APP/PS1 genotype aggravates epileptogenesis and cognitive decline after traumatic brain injury associated with chronic activation of amyloidogenic pathways. Molecular Neurobiol., in press.
  3. Pitkänen A, Löscher W, Vezzani A, Becker AJ, Simonato M, Lukasiuk K, Gröhn O, Bankstahl JP, Friedman A, Aronica E, Gorter JA, Ravizza T, Sisodiya S, Kokaia M, Beck H. Biomarkers in epilepsy. The Lancet Neurology, in press.
  4. Pitkänen A, Roivainen R, Lukasiuk K. Epileptogenesis after ischemic stroke. The Lancet Neurology 2015: Nov 13. pii: S1474-4422(15)00248-3. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(15)00248-3
  5. Huusko N, Römer C, Ndode-Ekane X, Lukasiuk K, Pitkänen A. Loss of hippocampal interneurons and epileptogenesis – comparison of two animal models of acquired epilepsy. Brain Structure & Function 2015:220(1):153-191.
  6. Sierra A, Laitinen T, Gröhn O, Pitkänen A. Diffusion tensor imaging of hippocampal network plasticity. Brain Struct Funct. 2015 Mar;220(2):781-801.
  7. Pitkänen A, Lukasiuk K, Dudek FE, Staley KJ. Epileptogenesis. Gold Spring Harbour Laboratory Press 2015; Nov 19;309:162-72. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.04.054. Epub 2015 Apr 28.
  8. Bolkvadze T, Pitkänen A. Development of post-traumatic epilepsy after controlled cortical impact and lateral fluid-percussion induced brain injury in the mouse. J Neurotrauma 2012:29(5):789-812.
  9. Pitkänen A, Lukasiuk K. Mechanisms of epileptogenesis and potential treatment targets. The Lancet Neurology 2011:10(2):173-86.
  10. Kharatishvili I, Immonen R, Gröhn O, Pitkänen A. Quantitative diffusion MRI of the hippocampus as a surrogate marker for posttraumatic  epileptogenesis. Brain 2007: 130 (Pt12):3155-68.