Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are sources of energy and are critical for many biochemical reactions in the body. However, many specific roles of the various amino acids still remains a mystery. Mice studies by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has now revealed that an amino acid, called D-leucine, acts as a potent seizure inhibitor in mice. D-leucine, which is found in many foods and certain bacteria, was found to interrupt prolonged seizures just as effectively as the epilepsy drug diazepam, but without any of the drug's sedative side effects.
The study results also suggest that D-leucine works differently from all current anti-seizure therapies. This finding that may pave the way for much-needed treatments for the nearly one-third of people with epilepsy with drug-resistant forms of the condition, marked by recalcitrant seizures.
Lead author Adam Hartman said, "Epilepsy treatments over the last 50 years have not improved much, so there's an acute need for better therapeutic approaches, especially for the millions of people with drug-resistant epilepsy. If confirmed in larger animals and humans, our results carry a real promise for those suffering from unremitting seizures."
Senior investigator J. Marie Hardwick said, "Our results suggest that D-leucine affects neurons differently from other known therapies to control seizures. This finding gives them hope of new approaches to epilepsy on the horizon."
The study is published in Neurobiology of Disease.