December 13, 2018

Epilepsy Study Points to Promising New Uses for Existing Drugs

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Zebrafish, image credit: University of Iowa

Drug repositioning—taking known drugs and identifying new applications for them—is an attractive concept for speeding up the process of bringing drugs to human testing for unmet medical needs.

In a new study, published online in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, University of Iowa researchers led by Alexander Bassuk, MD, PhD, UI professor of pediatrics and neurology, use a multidisciplinary strategy that combines gene expression profiling and bioinformatics to identify a list of around 90 drugs, all of which already are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in people or animals, that may also have potential as anti-seizure treatments.

The UI team tested candidate drugs from the list in a zebrafish model of seizures and found that three—a diabetes drug, a hypertension medication, and an antiparasitic therapy—significantly reduced seizure-like movement in the fish.

Of the 184 compounds, 91 are already FDA-approved for human use, although not for treating seizures or epilepsy.

“That’s pretty exciting because those are drugs that don’t necessarily have to go through all the initial stages of safety testing because they are already approved for use in humans,” Bassuk says.

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