Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Christine Wakayama L&S Social Sciences

Ketogenic Diet and Inflammation in Infantile Epileptic Spasms Syndrome

Infantile epileptic spasms syndrome (IESS) is a catastrophic epilepsy that occurs in children between 3-24 months of age. IESS is frequently associated with developmental regression and cognitive deficits. In over half of cases, IESS progresses into other forms of intractable epilepsy. The ketogenic diet, however, can be an effective therapy for epilepsy–in particular children with intractable IESS. While the mechanism of the ketogenic diet in the treatment of epilepsy is not known, its use has been implicated in reducing neuroinflammation. Specifically, levels of cytokines may serve as markers of disease severity and provide insight into pathophysiology. With the Numis lab, I plan to evaluate levels of plasma inflammatory biomarkers before and after ketogenic diet initiation for IESS in order to identify biochemical changes induced by the diet and to identify biomarkers that may predict response to the ketogenic diet in children with IESS. From a broader standpoint, this project aims to improve the mechanistic understanding of the ketogenic diet in regards to treating neuroinflammation. We also hope to improve the efficacy of identifying patients who may benefit most from initiating the ketogenic diet, potentially easing medication load and reducing seizure activity–both critical components in improving patient quality of life.

Message To Sponsor

I would like to thank the donors who supported my research this summer. I am so grateful for the chance to learn more about the applications of data science and neuroscience in clinical research under the guidance of such incredible mentors, and I’m excited to continue learning as I progress through my research career.
Major: Cognitive Science
Mentor: Adam Numis
Sponsor: Shin Morgan Fund
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