Brain study may lead to improved epilepsy treatments

Apr 14, 2008

Using a rodent model of epilepsy, researchers found one of the body’s own neurotransmitters released during seizures, glutamate, turns on a signaling pathway in the brain that increases production of a protein that could reduce medication entry into the brain. Researchers say this may explain why approximately 30 percent of patients with epilepsy do not respond to antiepileptic medications.

The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and Medical School, in collaboration with Heidrun Potschka’s laboratory at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany, is available online and will appear in the May 2008, issue of Molecular Pharmacology.

“Our work identifies the mechanism by which seizures increase production of a drug transport protein in the blood brain barrier, known as P-glycoprotein, and suggests new therapeutic targets that could reduce resistance,” said David Miller, Ph.D., a principal investigator in the NIEHS Laboratory of Pharmacology and co-author on the paper.

The blood-brain barrier (BBB), which resides in brain capillaries, is a limiting factor in treatment of many central nervous system disorders. It is altered in epilepsy so that it no longer permits free passage of administered antiepileptic drugs into the brain. Miller explained that P-glycoprotein forms a functional barrier in the BBB that protects the brain by limiting access of foreign chemicals.

“The problem is that the protein does not distinguish well between neurotoxicants and therapeutic drugs, so it can often be an obstacle to the treatment of a number of diseases, including brain cancer,” Miller said. Increased levels of P-glycoprotein in the BBB has been suggested as one probable cause of drug resistance in epilepsy.

Using isolated brain capillaries from mice and rats and an animal model of epilepsy, the researchers found that glutamate, a neurotransmitter released when neurons fire during seizures, turns on a signaling pathway that activates cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), causing increased synthesis of P-glycoprotein in these experiments. Increased transporter expression was abolished in COX-2 knockout mice or by COX-2 inhibitors. It has yet to be shown in animals or patients that targeting COX-2 will reduce seizure frequency or increase the effectiveness of anti-epileptic drugs.

"These findings provide insight into one mechanism that underlies drug resistance in epilepsy and possibly other central nervous system disorders," said Bjoern Bauer, Ph.D., lead author on the publication. "Targeting blood-brain barrier signals that increase P-glycoprotein expression rather than the transporter itself suggests a promising way to improve the effectiveness of drugs that are used to treat epilepsy, though more research is needed before new therapies can be developed.”

Source: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Explore further: Human antibodies target Marburg, Ebola viruses; 1 step closer to vaccine

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ancient wheat points to Stone Age trading links

48 minutes ago

(AP)—Britons may have discovered a taste for bread thousands of years earlier than previously thought, thanks to trade with more advanced neighbors on the European continent.

Bumblebees make false memories too

54 minutes ago

It's well known that our human memory can fail us. People can be forgetful, and they can sometimes also "remember" things incorrectly, with devastating consequences in the classroom, courtroom, and other ...

Recommended for you

Experts warn of stem cell underuse

4 hours ago

Since the first experimental bone marrow transplant over 50 years ago, more than one million hematopoietic stem cell transplantations (HSCT) have been performed in 75 countries, according to new research charting the remarkable ...

Longer needles recommended for epinephrine autoinjectors

16 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Given the increasing epidemic of obesity, epinephrine autoinjectors (EAIs) for anaphylaxis require longer needles to ensure intramuscular injection, according to a study published online Feb. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.