Dr Walker qualified in medicine from the University of Liverpool, with an additional intercalated honours degree in human anatomy and cell biology. Following this she completed her junior medical training in the Mersey medical rotation. Prior to commencing the North West England MRC Clinical Research Fellowship she completed a 2 year Academic Clinical Fellowship in Clinical Pharmacology and Neurology. Her PhD involved identification of novel inflammatory biomarkers for the early stratification of patients with drug-resistant epilepsy.
Epilepsy affects 3-5% of people at some point in their lives, making it one of the most common serious neurological disorders. 30% of patients continue to have seizures despite antiepileptic drug treatment, significantly impeding their quality of life. The mechanisms underlying the development of epilepsy, particularly after an injury to the brain, are poorly understood. Recent evidence from experimental models and brain tissue from patients with epilepsy suggest that inflammatory pathways may be important to the development of epilepsy and its severity. Lauren’s work has shown that a protein called high-mobility group box-1 (HMGB1) is found at very high levels in blood in patients with longstanding, difficult to control epilepsy. What is more, particular forms of this protein, (disulphide-HMGB1), are present only in a sub-cohort of resistant patients and are absent in those that are well-controlled.
Through her clinical lectureship, Lauren continues to investigate potential biomarkers for epilepsy. She is examining patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy and whether the disulphide form of HMGB1 can predict whether or not newly-diagnosed patients with epilepsy are likely to go on to develop drug-resistance. If so, these patients could be targeted with immune-modulatory drugs. This is important as it may provide novel ways of treating patients, particularly the 30% who do not become seizure free.