Blood pressure drug ‘could prevent epilepsy following brain injury’
US researchers have developed a potential new method of preventing patients who have suffered a severe brain injury from going on to develop epilepsy.
A team from the University of California, Berkeley has utilised a drug that is currently commonly prescribed for hypertension, or high blood pressure, to prevent the onset of post-traumatic epilepsy.
The research built on the scientists’ discovery that the blood-brain barrier – a tight wall of cells lining the veins and arteries in the brain that is breached after trauma – could play a key role in explaining why so many people who suffer a head injury are affected by epilepsy following their accidents.
When this barrier is disrupted, the blood protein albumin leaks into the brain and activates the TGF-beta receptor on astrocytes, the brain’s support cells. This triggers a cascade of events leading to inflammation, eventually resulting in epileptic seizures.
However, studies using the blood pressure drug losartan – which is sold under the brand name Cozaar – showed the TGF-beta receptor could be successfully blocked, preventing this process from taking place.
In a study of rats, seizures were prevented in 60 per cent of cases, while those that still experienced epileptic symptoms did so at a greatly reduced rate. Administration of losartan for three weeks at the time of injury was enough to prevent most cases of epilepsy in normal lab rats in the following months.
Study co-author Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, said: “This is the first ever approach in which epilepsy development is stopped, as opposed to common drugs that try to prevent seizures once epilepsy develops.”
Between ten and 20 per cent of all cases of epilepsy result from severe head injury. Moreover, people who develop epilepsy as a result of brain trauma tend to be unlikely to respond to conventional drug therapies, making this a potentially important new discovery.
Posted by Steve Long