Epilepsy is a neurological disorder, marked by the brain's abnormal electrical activity, which leads to recurring seizures. However, scientists hope that they have identified a new anticonvulsant compound, 'paxilline', which may cease the progression of epilepsy.
The study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers is based on a previous work in which scientists identified a specific molecular target whose increased activity is linked with seizure disorders- a potassium channel known as the BK channel.
"We have found a new anticonvulsant compound that eliminates seizures in a model of epilepsy," said Alison Barth, associate professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon's Mellon College of Science.
She added: "The drug works by inhibiting ion channels whose role in epilepsy was only recently discovered. Understanding how these channels work in seizure disorders, and being able to target them with a simple treatment, represents a significant advance in our ability to understand and treat epilepsy." he researchers found that after a first seizure, BK channel function was markedly enhanced.
Thus, the neurons became overly excitable and were firing with more speed, intensity and spontaneity, which led the researchers to believe that the abnormal increase in the activity of the channels might play a role in causing subsequent seizures and the emergence of epilepsy. n the current study, the researchers tested this theory by blocking the ion channels using a BK-channel antagonist called paxilline.
Using an experimental model for epilepsy, Barth tested whether paxilline could reduce or prevent experimentally induced seizures, as it could normalize aberrant brain activity induced by previous seizures.
And to their surprise, the researchers discovered that the compound was effective at completely blocking subsequent seizures. The drug is orally available, and works in the low nanomolar range," said Barth.
As the drug is effective in low concentrations and can be taken as a pill, it could turn out to be an especially promising compound for treatment in epilepsy patients.
The researchers believe that targeting the BK channels and the abnormal brain activity that they induce might one day be used as a way to prevent the progression of seizure disorders over time, thus attacking the root cause of epilepsy.
The findings have been published in the current issue of the journal Epilepsia.