Novel treatments for epilepsy
1 September 2011
Half a million people in the UK have epilepsy of which 30% are not adequately controlled on present treatments. Moreover, the use of one of the most effective antiepileptic drugs, sodium valproate, has been limited by its side-effects and, in particular, by its teratogenic effect (a teratogen is a drug or other substance capable of interfering with the development of a fetus, causing birth defects).
Robin Williams at Royal Holloway and Matthew Walker at UCL Institute of Neurology have used Dictyostelium (slime mould) to screen compounds for activity in the biochemical pathway on which valproate acts. They have successfully identified groups of potential antiepileptic drugs that are more potent than valproate, yet probably lack the serious effects that valproate can have in pregnancy. They have tested some of these compounds in an in vitro mammalian model of seizures, and have shown improved efficacy compared to valproate.
Professor Walker says: "This is an important breakthrough in identifying new drugs that may prove to be more effective in epilepsy yet lack many of the unacceptable adverse effects of older therapies."
The research, published in the journal Disease, Models & Mechanisms this week was funded by the National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction (NC3Rs), and provides as Professor Walker says: "a completely novel approach to the identification of new antiepileptic drugs that will substantially reduce animal use"
The Wellcome Trust also provided funding for the project but financial support is currently being sought to develop these compounds towards clinical trials.