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April 30, 2019 1:08 pm

Israeli Researchers Discover New Treatment for Severe Epilepsy

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Scientists at work in laboratory. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered that a common drug treatment for multiple sclerosis may have important applications for epilepsy as well, including Dravet syndrome, which affects children and has a 20-percent mortality rate.

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s EurekAlert! website, scientists at Professor Inna Slutsky’s lab at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University published their study of the drug in the journal Neuron on Monday.

Slutsky said that the drug in question, Teriflunomide, affects the stability of neuronal activity. This may help preserve the stability of the brain’s processes, thus preventing the destabilization that leads to epileptic seizures.

“What we have found is a homeostatic mechanism that acts as a sort of a thermostat of the neural circuits, which ensures the return to a set point after each event that increases or decreases brain activity,” she explained.

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Referring to the gene dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH), which is the source of energy in cells, Slutsky said, “Our data suggest that DHODH inhibition by the drug Teriflunomide, approved for multiple sclerosis treatment due to its immunosuppressive actions in the blood, resulted in a stable inhibition of neuronal activity, without impairing compensatory mechanisms to activity-dependent perturbations.”

Tests performed on mice indicated that injecting Teriflunomide induces a return to normal brain activity and decreases the intensity of epileptic seizures.

“Drugs based on this new principle may give hope to 30 to 40 percent of epilepsy patients, who are not responding to existing therapies, including children with Dravet syndrome, about 20 percent of whom die from the disease,” said Slutsky.

She also believes that there may be further applications for the drug in treating other brain disorders.

“We are currently examining whether failure in activity set point regulation exists in Alzheimer’s disease,” she said. “If so, it may provide a new conceptual way to treat memory disorders.”

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