Scripps research may lead to new class of drugs for epileptic seizures

A chemical compound that boosts the action of a molecule normally produced in the brain may provide the starting point for a new line of therapies for the treatment of epileptic seizures, according to a new study by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute.

"This compound really provides a new angle for developing drugs to treat seizures," says Scripps Research Assistant Professor Xiaoying Lu, who co-authored the paper with Professor Edward Roberts, Chair of the Molecular and Integrative Neurosciences Department Tamas Bartfai, and colleagues.

As described this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the new compound effectively reduced the frequency and severity of seizures in mice and rats.

About 50 million people worldwide are affected by epilepsy, a disease characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures. As a result of the seizures, people may have violent muscle spasms or lose consciousness and, in some cases, suffer from brain damage or die.

Epileptic seizures are caused by the rapid and excessive firing of a population of neurons in an area of the brain known as the cortex.

The dozen-plus medicines currently on the market to treat epilepsy work to reduce this excessive firing primarily by targeting the mechanisms by which neurons send signals to one another.