Novel Drug for Epilepsy May Lead to a Potential Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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In a recent study published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, a team of researchers from the University of British Columbia discovered that a novel drug for epilepsy might lead to a potential a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

The study results support the theory that brain hyper excitability has a crucial role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and that anticonvulsant drugs may used as a potential treatment deserving further human investigations.

Previous researches examined in rodent models and also in two clinical trials in patients with early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, the effects of Levetiracetam, a widely used anticonvulsant drug. Specific anticonvulsant therapy reverses memory impairments in various transgenic mouse strains, but it is not known whether reduction of epileptiform activity might serve as a surrogate marker of drug efficacy for memory improvement in AD mouse models.

The results from the study entitled “Brivaracetam, but not ethosuximide, reverses memory impairments in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model” indicate that the drug may reduce the symptoms of the condition such as memory loss.” Dr. Haakon Nygaard, the Fipke Professor in Alzheimer’s Research in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, evaluated the effects of brivaracetam, a compound identical to levetiracetam, but that is 10 times more potent.

The team of researchers discovered that the drug completely reversed memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease rodent models.  However, the investigators still need to understand how the drug reverses memory loss. Nygaard also mentioned that these novel findings offer preliminary results regarding potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Now we have many different research groups using antiepileptic drugs that engage the same target, and all point to a therapeutic effect in both Alzheimer’s disease models, and patients with the disease,” said Nygaard, a researcher with the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. “Both of these drugs are likely to be tested in larger clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease over the next five to 10 years.” “Larger clinical studies in human subjects will be needed before we can determine whether anticonvulsant therapy will be part of our future therapeutic arsenal against Alzheimer’s.”