by Dr Melissa Maguire, Consultant Neurologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals

Dr Melissa Maguire is a Consultant Neurologist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals and NIHR Specialty lead in Neurological Disorders for Yorkshire & Humber. She holds the honorary title of Clinical Associate Professor in Neurology at the University of Leeds

Since April 2019, Leeds Hospitals Charity have funded protected time for me to develop research into epilepsy. Epilepsy affects around 1% of the UK population (600,000) and is a condition where people suffer recurrent and unprovoked seizures. Seizures can result in injury, affect psychosocial wellbeing and in rare cases, can cause premature death.

Prior to this funding, there had been no active research collaboration between Leeds Teaching Hospitals and the University of Leeds (UoL) in epilepsy. As a full-time consultant neurologist leading a busy epilepsy service and member of the neuro-oncology team, this protected funding has been invaluable.

The funding has supported two main areas of epilepsy research development since April 2019:

The creation and supervision of an LTHT epilepsy research fellowship.

The last year has seen Dr Sam Fairclough explore epidemiology and treatment outcomes of epilepsy associated with brain gliomas; a form of brain tumour.

This two year big data project links clinical and biological data, and has forged new collaborations with the University of Leeds Brain Tumour Research Group.

The aim of this collaboration is to develop projects in tumour-related epilepsy, to better understand the pathophysiological and clinical factors that link seizures and brain tumours.

A further fellowship exploring seizures and - the more commonly encountered - meningioma tumours, has had funding approved and will commence in September 2022.

This collaboration will help us understand how seizures are generated, who is most at risk of developing epilepsy, the effect of seizures on brain tumour growth, and inform on how seizures related to tumours should be treated.

This research development supports Leeds Teaching Hospitals’s achievement in becoming a Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence for Brain Cancer.

Collaboration with commercial industry and development of MedTech in epilepsy.

In the last three years, a commercial partnership has evolved with the novel MedTech Company UNEEG medical A/S.

This device company produce the SubQ system device, which is an electrode implant capable of measuring brain waves over extended periods of time.

I have developed a service-driven project which will analyse the utility and user experience of this device in the epilepsy surgery programme.

Participants with a dual diagnosis of epileptic and non-epileptic seizures will be monitored by the technology to enable more robust data driven decision making by the epilepsy surgery team. If the technology demonstrates clinical and cost effectiveness, the device will be adopted into the NHS clinical programme. £50,000 of charitable and commercial funding was secured to support this project.

Funding from Leeds Hospitals Charity has also enabled me to support undergraduate medical student projects at the University of Leeds. Encouraging the next generation of doctors, trainees and neurologists to get involved in research is of key importance. We currently have two medical students conducting a survey project exploring men’s health and wellbeing in epilepsy. This survey will help to understand what issues men feel are important to their epilepsy and how we can improve their specialist care. Outcomes from this survey will be reported on during Men’s Health Week 2022, this coming June.

I wish to say a huge thank you to the Leeds Hospitals Charity for all their support in driving forward research in Epilepsy and enabling me to develop as a researcher.

The Yorkshire Brain Appeal is a linked charity of Leeds Hospitals Charity dedicated to funding research into brain diseases. In Leeds we see around 9,000 new Neurology patients every year.  Conditions include Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Epilepsy and Migraine as well as others and can affect patients in many different ways.