By Alison Trinidad

Patients who suffer from uncontrolled epilepsy now have new treatment options at Keck Medicine of USC, thanks to the recent founding of the USC Center for Neurorestoration.

The center proposes to physically test innovative neural engineering and basic neuroscience to restore neurological circuitry and function within the human brain.

Christianne Heck, MD, MMM, associate professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, medical director of the USC Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, and Charles Liu, MD, PhD, professor of neurosurgery and neurology at the Keck School, surgical director of the USC Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, are co-directors of the new center. Heck and Liu worked extensively over the last three years to build USC’s Level 4 epilepsy program.

“Thanks to Dr. Heck and Dr. Liu’s innovation and perseverance, Keck Medicine of USC has a Level 4 epilepsy center, the highest level of medical and surgical evaluation and treatment available for patients with complex epilepsy,” said Scott Evans, PharmD, MHA, CEO of Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital. “The addition of this groundbreaking therapy to our arsenal is testament to our team’s dedication to improving the quality of patients’ lives.”

The approach relies on mapping, decoding and repairing basic neural circuitry in the brain. It represents a fundamental departure from current best practices in neurorehabilitation, which rely on pharmacological modulation, external prostheses, compensatory strategies and limited intrinsic neural plasticity. It also represents an alternative to cell-based strategies for regenerative medicine, where success in the brain will be ultimately limited by the ability to restore neural circuitry. The proposed multidisciplinary work will lead to functional maps of the nervous system, highly congruent with the Presidential Brain Mapping Initiative.

Keck Medicine of USC will serve as the keystone for these efforts, working closely with multiple scientific and engineering sites to direct all future USC human applications in the restoration of neural circuits. One of the center’s current projects includes improving upon the RNS system by testing different levels of electrical stimulation on brain samples in the lab to determine the most effective level for seizure prevention.

“Our faculty physicians and scientists are constantly striving to discover new solutions to the most complex diseases, conditions and disorders,” added Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, dean of the Keck School. “The USC Center for Neurorestoration is a prime example of that pioneering approach — proposing a fundamental departure from current best practices in neurorehabilitation and bridging the gap between science and medicine.”