Saturday, May 9, 2009

New drug target for epilepsy

Scientists have identified a specific molecular target whose increased activity is linked with seizure disorders- a potassium channel known as the BK channel.

A new anticonvulsant compound that eliminates seizures in a model of epilepsy. 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. Researchers have 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. In a recent 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.
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 findings have been published in the current issue of the journal Epilepsia.

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