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Auerbach's research of sudden unexpected death of epilepsy patients attracts attention

Research by David Auberach, PhD, a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology, on Cardiac and Autonomic Pathological Markers for Arrhythmias and Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy Patient (SUDEP) has attracted the attention of the family of young Disney Channel star who died from SUDEP in 2019 at the age of 20.

The grant award released by CURE Epilepsy will now be known as the CURE Epilepsy Cameron Boyce Foundation SUDEP Award to honor Boyce.

"We are grateful for the support from the CURE Epilepsy Foundation and Cameron Boyce Foundation., Auerbach said. "This SUDEP award has enabled us to dive in and begin some exciting new work with an expanded team of researchers and clinicians with diverse areas of expertise at SUNY Upstate Medical University, University of Rochester Medical Center, and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

People with epilepsy are at a high risk of sudden death unexpected death (e.g., SUDEP). Current SUDEP risk factors are not linked to the proposed biological causes for SUDEP. There is a higher prevalence of cardiac electrical abnormalities in people with epilepsy, and arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythms are reported to precede cases of SUDEP.

Auerbach’s team is using analytical tools that are well accepted in the cardiac field, but new to the epilepsy and SUDEP field, to identify epilepsy patient populations at risk of cardiac arrhythmias. Additionally, his team will test whether these tools identify people with epilepsy who later died of SUDEP. The team’s long-term goal is to develop a comprehensive SUDEP risk assessment tool based on markers for each of the proposed biological causes of SUDEP, including cardiac arrhythmias.

Boyce first appeared on the Disney Channel in 2011, starring as Luke Ross in the comedy series Jessie, and in 2015 was featured as one of the main cast members the channel's Descendants. He has numerous other screen and TV credits, including the Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups.

Through funding the CURE Epilepsy Cameron Boyce SUDEP Research Award, the Cameron Boyce Foundation recognizes the promise of this work, and it reinforces its resolve to honor Boyce's legacy by supporting epilepsy research, awareness, and education.

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder behind migraine, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease but receives significantly less federal funding. CURE Epilepsy has helped fill that void, especially in the area of SUDEP research.


 Caption: David Auerbach and Cameron Boyce.