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Implantable device provides seizure alerts

Australian researchers conducted the first human trials of an implantable device developed to alert epilepsy patients whose seizures aren’t controlled by medication that they may be about to have one.

Electrodes implanted on the surface of the brain detect electrical activity and connect to a unit placed under the skin of the chest, which transmits the data to a wireless hand-held device. When abnormal brain waves are detected, this unit predicts the likelihood of an oncoming seizure.

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Researchers at the University of Melbourne implanted the device in 15 patients ages 20 to 62 who have focal epilepsy. During the first four months, the device predicted seizures better than chance in 11 of the participants, who then went on to a second four-month phase when the device was activated. In eight of these participants, the device predicted the onset of seizures between about half and 100 percent of the time. The warning was counted only if it preceded the seizure by at least five minutes. Two patients had the device removed, one after an infection, the other because of neck pain.

Predicting seizures could help patients know when to avoid dangerous situations, such as driving, and may lead to treatments to head off seizures, the researchers said.

BOTTOM LINE: An implantable device may be able to predict the onset of seizures in some people who have epilepsy.

CAUTIONS: The preliminary study included a small number of participants and was funded by NeuroVista, the device manufacturer.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Lancet Neurology, online May 2

Genetic marker may predict weight loss after surgery

Genetic markers may help predict how much weight someone could lose after undergoing gastric bypass surgery, according to a Massachusetts General Hospital study. Bypass surgery is believed to lead to weight loss not simply by constricting the stomach but through altering the regulation of appetite, the authors note, and genetic factors likely play a key role.

Researchers looked at genomes of nearly 700 patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery at Mass. General between 2000 and 2011. Patients who had two copies of a particular version of a gene on chromosome 15 lost nearly 40 percent of their weight before surgery. Those who had one copy of this gene marker lost 33 percent.

In subsequent experiments in mice, the activity of the corresponding mouse version of this gene and of an adjacent gene changed after bypass surgery.

While it’s unclear how these genes work, developing drugs that target them might produce some of the same weight-loss benefits without surgery, senior author Dr. Lee Kaplan of Mass. General and Harvard Medical School said in a release.

BOTTOM LINE: Genetic markers may help predict how much weight someone could lose after undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

CAUTIONS: The study does not find a cause and effect relationship between genetic markers and the amount of weight lost.

WHERE TO FIND IT:American Journal of Human Genetics, May 2

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