Anti-epilepsy drugs can cause inflammations

December 19, 2013 by Dr. Julia Weiler
Two types of glial cells: astroglia are dyed green, microglia red. The nuclei are highlighted blue. Credit: RUB, Bild: Dambach

Physicians at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have been investigating if established anti-epilepsy drugs have anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory properties – an effect for which these pharmaceutical agents are not usually tested. One of the substances tested caused stronger inflammations, while another one inhibited them. As inflammatory reactions in the brain may be the underlying cause for epileptic disorders, it is vital to take the trigger for the disorder under consideration when selecting drugs for treatment, as the researchers concluded.

They published their report in the journal Epilepsia.

Glial cells play a crucial role in the nervous system

Hannes Dambach from the Department for Neuroanatomy and Molecular Brain Research, together with a team of colleagues, studied how anti-epilepsy drugs affect the survival of glial in cultures. Glial cells are the largest cell group in the brain; they are crucial for supplying neurons with nutrients and affect immune and inflammatory responses. The question of how glial cells are affected by anti-epilepsy drugs had previously not been studied in depth. The RUB work group Clinical Neuroanatomy, headed by Prof Dr Pedro Faustmann, analysed four substances: , gabapentin, phenytoin and carbamazepine.

Four anti-epilepsy drugs affect glial cells in different ways

Glial cells treated by the researchers with valproic adic and gabapentin had better survival chances than those treated with phenytoin and carbamazepine. However, carbamazepine had a positive effect, too: it reduced inflammatory responses. Valproic acid, on the other hand, turned out to be pro-inflammatory. In how far the anti-epilepsy drugs affected inflammations was also determined by the applied dose. Consequently, different drugs affected – and hence indirectly the neurons – in different ways.

Inflammatory responses should be taken under consideration in clinical studies

"Clinical studies should focus not only on the question in how far anti-epilepsy drugs affect the severity and frequency of epileptic seizures," says Pedro Faustmann. "It is also necessary to test them with regard to the role they play in in the central nervous system." Thus, doctors could take the underlying inflammatory condition under consideration when selecting the right anti-epilepsy drug.

Epilepsy may have different causes

In Germany, between 0.5 and 1 percent of the population suffer from epilepsy that requires drug treatment. The disease may have many causes: genetic predisposition, disorders of the central nervous system after meningitis, traumatic brain injury and stroke. Inflammatory responses may also be caused by damage to the .

Explore further: Adenosine therapy reduces seizures and progression of epilepsy

More information: H. Dambach, D. Hinkerohe, N. Prochnow, M.N. Stienen, Z. Moinfar, C.G. Haase, A. Hufnagel, P.M. Faustmann (2013): Glia and epilepsy: Experimental investigation of antiepileptic drugs in an astroglia/microglia co-culture model of inflammation, Epilepsia, DOI: 10.1111/epi.12473

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Molecular Zika study finds possible target for tests, drugs

April 19, 2016

The molecular structure of the Zika virus as seen on x-ray crystallography revealed electrostatic differences in a key protein compared with other flaviviruses that might explain how it infects human cells, according to a ...

Zika virus may now be tied to another brain disease

April 10, 2016

The Zika virus may be associated with an autoimmune disorder that attacks the brain's myelin similar to multiple sclerosis, according to a small study that is being released today and will be presented at the American Academy ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.