Nearly a fifth of all cases of epilepsy are the result of traumatic brain injuries, but a team of researchers from UC Berkeley, Ben-Gurion University in Israel and Charité-University Medicine in Germany claim a new drug can prevent post-traumatic seizures. It may even be able to prevent further brain damage caused by seizures in those who already have epilepsy.
The researchers report in the latest issue of the journal Annals of Neurology that a widely used hypertension drug is capable of preventing a majority of cases of post-traumatic epilepsy in a rodent model of the disease. If the findings are verified by independent testing, it could lead for human clinical trials within just a few years.
“This is the first-ever approach in which epilepsy development is stopped, as opposed to common drugs that try to prevent seizures once epilepsy develops,” said coauthor Daniela Kaufer, UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology and a member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. “Those drugs have a very limited success and many side effects, so we are excited about the new approach.”
While the potential treatment may prove to be the most valuable information from this study in the future, the researchers also may have provided information highly relevent to currently ongoing research. They provide one of the first explanations for how a brain injury, stroke, or infection could lead to epilepsy.
Based on their research, the blood-brain barrier – the tight wall of cells lining the veins and arteries in the brain – is responsible for cases of epilepsy in brain injury patients when the barrier is breached during or after trauma.
“This study for the first time offers a new mechanism and an existing, FDA-approved drug to potentially prevent epilepsy in patients after brain injuries or after they develop an abnormal blood-brain barrier,” Alon Friedman, said associate professor of physiology and neurobiology at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.