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New Drug for Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Discovered

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A recent study has discovered a new class of drugs which may prevent temporal lobe epilepsy, which is one of the deadliest and debilitating forms of epilepsy.

Temporal lobe epilepsy is able to affect the areas of the brain which are responsible for mood and memory. After the attack of this type of epilepsy, the patient may have impaired awareness. Temporal lobe epilepsy patients have the risk of harming themselves when they drive a car or perform other tasks. Thus their career options are somewhat limited.

The current choices of treatments for these types of patients are medicines that can help with symptoms. In some cases, surgery to remove the temporal lobe may be done to take out the source of the seizures. However, just like any other brain disorder, there are no medicines that can actually prevent temporal lobe epilepsy or halt its progression.

The Epilepsy Study

In this study published in the November 4 issue of the journal Neuron, a type of medicine that can prevent prolonged temporal seizures and prevent further attacks has been discovered by researchers from the departments of neurobiology and neurology of Duke University. The researchers hope that this drug could further move in clinical trials so that its safety and efficacy can be established. They think that this drug should be tested in animals then in humans. According to them, this medicine can be given as an intervention in cases of prolonged seizures and as a preventive measure for epilepsy. Temporal lobe epilepsy often starts after a prolonged seizure which usually occurs in certain events such as during the development of high fever.

Previous research done on temporal lobe seizures have found out that a certain brain receptor called TrkB is overactive after a prolonged seizure episode. This receptor may be responsible for converting seizures into epilepsy. There was a previous study in 2013 which showed that TrkB signalling in a mouse model can be blocked using a chemical-genetic approach after prolonged seizures. This inhibition was responsible for preventing epilepsy development later on. However, the researchers noted that TrkB was a poor target for drug trials since to activate it would have both positive and negative effects. One of its positive effects include protection of neuronal death.

In the present study, the researchers found out that inhibition of TrkB signalling globally would boost neuronal death in the brain. They then sought to separate the signalling pathways to determine the good and bad effects. They sought to develop a drug that would selectively inhibit pathways producing negative effects. In their quest, they developed a drug called pY816, a small protein that can prevent coupling of TrkB with phospholipase C?1. When they gave this drug to mice for three days, there was reduction in the severity and likelihood of epilepsy after a few months later. The researchers think that this may be due to the effect of the drug that inhibits the activation of phospholipase C?1 in study mice. The research team wants to do more animal models to prove the safety and efficacy of this drug in preventing temporal lobe epilepsy in the long run.

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Written by: Dr. Christine Ena Carado