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Early treatment could quiet epilepsy

Medicine@Yale, 2008 - Mar Apr


Epilepsy can be controlled by medication, but not cured. Scientists have wondered whether early drug intervention could suppress the development of certain forms of genetic epilepsy, and a new School of Medicine study backs this idea.

Using a rat model of genetic epilepsy, a team led by Hal Blumenfeld, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology, neurobiology and neurosurgery, showed that early treatment with ethosuximide–an anti-epileptic drug sold by Pfizer under the name Zarontin–reduced the severity of epilepsy in adulthood. Surprisingly, as reported in the December 2007 issue of Epilepsia, the effect persisted after therapy was discontinued.

The researchers began treating the rats at 21 days of age, before they had had any seizures, and continued the treatment until they were 5 months old. The early treatment suppressed the seizures and blocked changes in the expression of several ion channels involved in susceptibility to seizures.

The findings support the idea that seizures have to occur at a critical stage of development for the full epileptic profile to develop, but that this ruthless cycle can be stopped by early intervention.

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