See you in London – getting ready for the 10th European Congress of Epileptology

London calling. In the epilepsy field, there are annual and bi-annual meetings that are worth attending. One of these meetings is the 10th European Congress of Epileptology (ECE), which will be held from September 30th to October 4th, 2012 in London. With Nobel Lecture Series, entertaining debates on controversial issues and interactive sessions with a “clubroom atmosphere”, the organizers will try out a new format for the European epilepsy meeting. Let’s give you a brief overview what this congress will hold for scientists interested in epilepsy genetics. Continue reading

15q11.2 – the microdeletion spectre

Genetic mirage. We look at genetic variants all the time. There are few genetic variants that stare back at us. 15q11.2 is one these variants, facing us with the constant question how we define and perceive genetic risk. Not because of its pathogenicity, but because of the confusion that it causes. Continue reading

The Speed of Dark – BCKDK mutations in autism and epilepsy

Is the speed of dark the same as the speed of light? This is one the questions that Lou Arrendale is concerned with, the protagonist of Elisabeth Moon’s Nebula Award winning science fiction novel. Lou has autism, but he grows up a future where prenatal diagnosis and early intervention helps people with autism lead an independent life. Lou works for an IT company with a special autism unit that takes advantage of his superior pattern recognition skills. The novel is about Lou’s internal struggle and external pressure through his employer and friends to enroll in a novel experimental therapy that might “cure”  autism. In a recent paper in Science, Novarino and colleagues now claim to have identified a potentially treatable form of genetic autism. Continue reading

Genetic Generalized Epilepsy might be less genetic than you think

Ceci n’est pas une pipe. The painter René Magritte was known for his series of paintings that he called The Treachery of Images. He basically painted objects such as pipes, but then felt compelled to point out that the image actually betrays you. It’s not a real pipe, but only an image of it. For some reason, Magritte’s pipe comes to my mind when I read or hear the term Genetic Generalized Epilepsy. Again, the treachery of images. Ceci n’est pas une épilepsie génétique. Continue reading

Double Impact

Second hits. Genomic disorders are genetic disorders due to recurrent microdeletions or microduplications, i.e. small losses or gains of genomic material that happen again and again due to existing breakpoints in the human genome. Intriguingly, additional large microdeletions or microduplications can be identified in some patients with genomic disorders. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine tries to explain why. Continue reading

The rise of the Channelopathist

Gotham City. Strange sightings have recently occurred in EuroEPINOMICS land. Scientific evildoers and exomic villains tremble in fear. The field respectfully speaks of a masked superhero roaming the floors of major genome centers. His superpowers appear beyond description. Witness the rise of the Channelopathist – and a slightly unusual blog post on epilepsy genetics. Continue reading

To do: read ENCODE papers

ENCODE will change the way we analyse genomes. The comparison of long non-coding RNA and transcription factor binding sites will require more CPU time. Anything else? I don’t know, I am only writing this because Ingo asked me to. It’ll take time to study the 30+ papers, sift through the data and discuss it with colleagues. Only then, something like that understanding we hear so much about can happen and I am sure it will in journal clubs around the globe in the next weeks. But smaller things might already be interesting.

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EuroEPINOMICS family studies go whole genome

The EuroEPINOMICS live ticker. During the last ten months, the focus of the EuroEPINOMICS consortium on Rare Epilepsy Syndromes (RES) has been the trio analysis in patients with epileptic encephalopathies. The RES subproject also aims at analysing the genetics of rare familial epilepsies. There have been ongoing discussions about the best way to get the analysis started. Last week, we finally “sealed the deal” for whole genome analysis in RES families. The EuroEPINOMICS RES consortium will collaborate with the CoGIE partner Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB), the Institute of Systems Biology, Seattle USA (ISB) and Complete Genomics to analyse whole genome data of families with Rare Epilepsy Syndromes with an expected capacity of 100 genomes. But why exactly are we thinking about trading exomes for whole genomes? Continue reading

Standing on the shoulders of giants: the EPICURE GWAS on Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy

Pushing the reset button. The history of epilepsy genetics can broadly be distinguished into two major eras: the time before September 4th, 2012 and everything after this. September 4th, 2012 was the date that the first large genome-wide association study in IGE/GGE was published online in Human Molecular Genetics. Each of the >100 association studies in IGE listed in PubMed is now dated and needs to measure up against the current study, which will likely be remembered as the “EPICURE study”. The results of the EPICURE study are surprising and upset our conventional wisdom of what causes one of the most common forms of epilepsy. Continue reading

Exome shock with acute in-house deficiency

Sleep disturbances, double vision, writer’s cramp. As some of you might recall, I was not fully conscious during our Young Investigator’s meeting two weeks ago, spending most of the time in a haze either hacking random commands into my laptop with sweaty palms or desperately trying to communicate with my neighbor in Unix, Perl or Loglan. Ever since then, people have remarked that I have lost weight and that I haven’t smiled since. What has gotten a hold of me? It all started out with a small, innocent hard drive that made its way from Antwerp to Kiel. Continue reading