The Impact of Next-Generation Sequencing on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Epilepsy in Paediatric Patients.

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Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has contributed to the identification of many monogenic epilepsy syndromes and is favouring earlier and more accurate diagnosis in a subset of paediatric patients with epilepsy. The cumulative information emerging from NGS studies is rapidly changing our comprehension of the relations between early-onset severe epilepsy and the associated neurological impairment, progressively delineating specific entities previously gathered under the umbrella definition of epileptic encephalopathies, thereby influencing treatment choices and limiting the most aggressive drug regimens only to those conditions that are likely to actually benefit from them. Although ion channel genes represent the gene family most frequently causally related to epilepsy, other genes have gradually been associated with complex developmental epilepsy conditions, revealing the pathogenic role of mutations affecting diverse molecular pathways that regulate membrane excitability, synaptic plasticity, presynaptic neurotransmitter release, postsynaptic receptors, transporters, cell metabolism, and many formative steps in early brain development. Some of these discoveries are being followed by proof-of-concept laboratory studies that might open new pathways towards personalized treatment choices. No specific treatment is available for most of the monogenic disorders that can now be diagnosed early using NGS, and the main benefits of knowing the specific cause include etiological diagnosis, better prognostication and genetic counselling; however, for a limited number of disorders, timely treatment based on their known molecular pathology is already possible and sometimes decisive. Discovery of a causative gene defect associated with a non-progressive course may reduce the need for further diagnostic investigations in the search for a progressive disorder at the biochemical and imaging level. NGS has also improved the turnaround time for molecular diagnosis and allowed more timely and straightforward treatment choices for specific conditions as well as avoiding needless investigations and inappropriate or unnecessary treatment choices.

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