Even with optimal drug therapy, more than 30% of patients with epilepsy continue to have seizures. A study in the August issue of Nature Medicine offers hope that some of these patients might someday respond to therapies designed to produce seizure-repressing compounds directly in the brain.
Thomas McCown and colleagues used a gene therapy approach to successfully overproduce one such anticonvulsant compound, galanin, in the rat brain. Galanin is a peptide that is normally widely distributed in the brain - the investigators simply boosted its production in certain nerve cells. This treatment was able to prevent seizures in a model similar to focal epilepsy, which originates in one part of the brain and then spreads. Most patients with epilepsy suffer from focal seizures. The investigators also tested the treatment in a model of statis epilepticus, a seizure that lasts 30 minutes or more and often results in brain damage. Although the treatment did not prevent seizures, it did reduce the brain damage that accompanies them.
(University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, USA)
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