Meet Dr. Peter West

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Hope for HH is co-sponsoring the 4th International Symposium on Hypothalamic Hamartomas – a professional symposium for HH investigators, clinicians and researchers – in Washington DC Sept. 12-14. The Symposium aims to identify gaps in understanding and opportunities for future HH research studies and collaborations to improve diagnosis, treatment and care of both the seizures as well as the other endocrinological and neuropsychological symptoms.  

In this blog series, we will introduce you to several internationally recognized clinicians and researchers who are thought leaders both inside and outside of HH and who will serve as facilitators, presenters and discussants at the Symposium. Highlights of the Symposium will also be available to the HH patient and professional community following the meeting.

Meet Dr. Peter West

Dr. Peter J. West is a Research Assistant Professor in the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department and a Co-Investigator in the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP) at the University of Utah. For the last 20 years, Dr. West has specialized in the use of electrophysiological techniques to study the pharmacology of anti-seizure drugs and oversees all in-vitro and in-vivo electrophysiology studies in the ETSP. Furthermore, Dr. West studies the pharmacological treatment of cognitive dysfunction associated with seizures. Finally, Dr. West is interested in the development of animal models of hypothalamic hamartoma; early efforts towards this goal are underway.

Dr. West will be presenting an update on his research regarding Rodent Model development for HH during the Research Update session.

What is your specialty training and background?

I am an educator and researcher interested in the pathophysiology and pharmacological treatment of diseases that affect cognition. My research is conducted both independently and in collaboration with the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP), Principal Investigator: Karen Wilcox, PhD) through a contract with NINDS at the National Institutes of Health. In addition to managing and overseeing numerous drug discovery studies within the ETSP, I direct ongoing efforts to develop and characterize novel animal models of pharmacoresistant epilepsy. My independently funded research is focused on understanding the pathophysiology of diseases that negatively affect cognitive function (with an emphasis on Epilepsy). Additionally, I am interested in the discovery and development of novel treatments for cognitive dysfunction that do not exacerbate seizures or seizure-like activity. I currently employ electrophysiological, pharmacological, immunohistochemical, and behavioral techniques to achieve these goals. Of particular note, my laboratory uses specialized equipment which allows the experimenter to perform simultaneous recordings from multiple brain slices, thus allowing for the high-throughput screening of compounds for their effects on synaptic plasticity.


How did you become interested in HH research and care? What are your contributions to the HH field of research and care?

I became interested in HH research after attending the 3rd International HH Symposium in London. After listening to the speakers and familiarizing myself with the ongoing research, I became acutely aware of the need for effective treatments for early gelastic seizures in HH patients. I also appreciated that a major obstacle to discovering novel treatments for HH was the complete absence of translational animal models of this disease. For these reasons, I began investigating approaches towards the development of such a model that can be used in drug discovery and development. Through generous seed funding from HOPE for Hypothalamic Hamartoma and the University of Utah, efforts are presently underway to develop this model.


The Symposium is important because

If I had not been invited to attend the 3rd International HH Symposium, I would not have become aware of the needs of HH patients for new and improved treatments. Therefore, I would not have become inspired to redirect my research efforts towards the development of an animal model of HH to aid in drug discovery. I believe that this symposium raises awareness of HH and helps scientists and physicians to identify important unanswered questions, align efforts, facilitate collaborations, and ultimately generate momentum for major advances that will improve the lives of patients suffering from HH and their caregivers.


Outside of work passions

Being a resident of Utah, one is required to participate in outdoor recreational activities; accordingly, I enjoy snowboarding in the winter and camping in the southern Utah desert in the summer. I also truly enjoy experimenting with increasingly spicy food in the kitchen (much to the dismay of my wife and three children).

Call To Action

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