There is a term called drug repositioning, which simply means to take a medication and find a different application and purpose for it. Existing drugs that are found to be helpful for a different purpose than what the initial intent was, speeds up the process for patients looking for treatment by bringing them a "new" drug option to test.
A study published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology from Alexander Bassuk, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of Iowa, looks at a new strategy. This multidisciplinary effort will combine “gene expression profiling and bioinformatics to identify a list of around 90 drugs.” All of these drugs have already been approved by the FDA to be used in people and animals and may be able to help as an antiseizure treatment.
Providing More Hope for Epilepsy Sufferers
According to Vicky Whittemore, PhD and program director for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke who funded the study, said, “Taking a new look at medicines that are already approved for clinical use may help identify treatments that could reduce seizures and improve the quality of life for people with epilepsy who have been unable to find effective therapies.”
The team performing the study at the University of Iowa looked at drugs from the list in the zebrafish model of seizures. They were able to discover drugs that reduce the seizure-like movement that the fish suffered. One of the drugs was a diabetes drug, another was for hypertension and the third was an antiparasitic. Even though the original purpose of these drugs' had absolutely nothing to do with epilepsy, it appears as though they could end up proving to be useful.
These findings can help to cut down on the amount of time it would take for drugs to be available for those who have epilepsy. One of the major cons of new medication is the amount of time it takes to hit the market. Typically, there are multiple tests and protocols new medications are required to pass to make sure they're safe. Since these other medications have already gone through these trials and errors, they could be available right away to epileptics. Patients could potentially receive relief far more quickly than would be possible with the traditional methods.
The study was able to utilize live human brain tissue from patients who had epilepsy. The tissue was collected from six patients who were going through surgery to remove the area of the brain that was causing the seizures. The patients let the researchers use the tissue in their study.
Computational psychiatry researchers looked at gene expression for more than 25,000 genes in the brain tissue and looked for the differences between the seizing tissue and the non-seizing tissue. They looked at 184 compounds that they thought could be therapeutic. Then, found that out of the 184, there were 91 that had already been FDA approved for use by humans. However, they weren’t being used for treating epilepsy or seizures. This means that these compounds will not have to go through the initial safety testing stages, since these medications have already proven to be safe. Thus, these existing medications can help cut down on the amount of time it would take to make new drugs available to these patients.
These are just the first steps in seeing what drugs might be able to help those who are suffering from epilepsy. There may be many other drugs out there that could be very helpful, but we just aren’t aware yet.