News Feature | April 28, 2014

Blood Pressure Drug Found To Prevent Epilepsy After Brain Injury

By Marcus Johnson

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A common blood pressure drug, Cozaar (losartan), has been found to prevent epilepsy and impede further brain damage caused by seizures in patients that already have epilepsy. It is estimated that between 10 to 25 percent of all epilepsy attacks are a direct result of serious head trauma. Seizures caused by epilepsy can create further brain damage and worsen current brain injuries. Dr. Daniela Kaufer of the University of California is excited about the results of the current study, saying, “This study for the first time offers a new mechanism and an existing, FDA-approved drug to potentially prevent epilepsy in patients after brain injuries and once they develop an abnormal blood-brain barrier,” said Kaufer.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, Charité-University Medicine in Germany, and Ben-Gurion University in Negev completed an animal study on rats to come to the findings. In rats with extreme head trauma, the drug was able to prevent seizures in 60 percent of those treated. The remaining 40 percent had seizure rates of one quarter of those typical for rats who were not treated. The treatment regimen lasted 3 weeks and prevented seizures for the following few months. Human based clinical trials are expected to begin in the next few years.

The drug, losartan, which blocks the angiotensin receptor 1, also blocks the TGF- β receptor. In patients with epilepsy, this receptor is often affected by the protein albumin; when albumin bonds to the TGF- β, inflammation occurs, which leads to seizure. The study suggests that losartan can reach the brain through a breached barrier.

Professor Alon Friedman of Ben-Gurion University in Negev led the research, and said that this was the first study in which seizures were prevented altogether. “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,” said Friedman. “Those drugs are administered for many years, have a limited success and involve many side effects, so we are excited about the new approach.”

The research was published in the journal Annals of Neurology.

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