Researcher, professor of biology and the head of a research team from Penn State, Gong Chen, has said that neonates are the most vulnerable population when it comes to seizures. However, there are no medications that are effective for treating neonatal patients who suffer from epilepsy. For everyone 1,000 live births in the United States, there are between two and four infants who suffer from neonatal epilepsy, making it a large problem.
Using Gluconate Could Be the Key
Over the years, there have been drugs developed to help adult patients who have epilepsy. The neonatal patients, though, tend to be resistant to anti-epilepsy drugs and many do not respond at all. It is also true that the long-term use of the drugs could have adverse effects on the development of the brain along with other side effects. Neonatal patients have not had a medication that has been able to help them, but that could change.
According to Chen and the researchers on his team, the use of gluconate has the potential to stop seizures activated in the neurons of neonatal patients. The research that has been conducted has shown that it is more effective in helping neonatal animals than it is in adult animals. This marks the first time that an anticonvulsant has been found to stop neonatal seizure activity.
Gluconate is used in a range of different industries already, including the food and pharmaceutical industries. This drug is used in many cases as an inactive additive to food and drugs. It is a relatively simple compound and there are minimal side effects, especially when compared with other organic ions. The researchers believe that this could mean that it will help to speed up the development of treatment options for those who are suffering with neonatal epilepsy.
What is it about the gluconate that helps it to act as an anticonvulsant? According to the researchers, the “gluconate inhibits neonatal seizures by targeting what are known as CLC-3 chloride channels. These channels mediate a large ion current in neonatal brains, but are less active in adult brains. Gluconate appears to be too large to pass through the small openings of the CLC-3 channels and therefore acts as a channel blocker.”
The researchers said that they were surprised that the gluconate targeted those channels, as they have always been associated with the regulation of “neuronal transmission, glioma proliferation and neuron cell death.” Up until this research was conducted, though, there had not been any mentions that it could work to help with neonatal seizures.
Zheng Wu, the first author on the paper and an assistant research professor at Penn State said, “Here we found not only that CLC-3 chloride channels are highly expressed in the neonatal brain, but also that they are closely related to neonatal seizures. Importantly, gluconate not only blocks the CLC-3 chloride channels, but it also significantly inhibits neonatal seizure activity. Its neonatal activity makes it a great specific target for neonatal anti-epilepsy drugs.”
Gluconate was not all that was found that could help to inhibit CLC-3 chloride channels. In addition, there were ketones that worked in a similar manner. In the recent past, there have been ketogenic diets that were used to help some young patients with epilepsy. However, these would sometimes have side effects in some of the children.
Finding out about the potential that gluconate holds could mean that neonatal and child patients could have better methods of treating their seizures in the near future. Still, it is important to remember that there will still need to be a substantial amount of research conducted.