Posted on 30/08/2011
Dictyostelium amoeba were used to develop the new treatment
Researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London have developed a new biochemical approach to identifying epilepsy treatments which not only offer stronger seizure protection but could also provide safer treatment for pregnant women.
The research, carried out by Dr Robin Williams from the Centre of Biomedical Sciences at Royal Holloway, in collaboration with Professor Matthew Walker from the Institute of Neurology, University College London, is published today (30 August) in the Journal Disease, Models and Mechanisms.
Epilepsy is the most common serious neurological condition in humans and current treatments for pregnant women carry a higher chance of major birth defects, including heart problems and neural tube defects such as spina bifida. The current drugs available also have the problem of not controlling the condition in 20-30% of sufferers.
Dr Williams says: “The identification of a new family of highly potent anti-epilepsy drugs is an important breakthrough and may provide effective treatments for millions of people world-wide who continue to have uncontrolled seizures.
“This could also help transform the lives of pregnant epileptic women who can continue controlling their seizures with a reduced risk of any defects to their unborn babies.”
The National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction (NC3Rs) has supported Dr Williams in developing this new approach by using cells from soil-dwelling amoeba called Dictyostelium. Dr Williams explains: “Our research has shown that simple chemicals, such as the epilepsy treatment valproic acid, have many common effects in species ranging from Dictyostellium right up to homo sapiens. This has enabled the identification of new treatments showing stronger biochemical effects, giving rise to stronger seizure protection.”
The Wellcome Trust also provided funding for the project but financial support is currently being sought to develop these compounds towards clinical trials.