August 21, 2023

New GABA-Targeting Therapies for the Treatment of Seizures and Epilepsy: II. Treatments in Clinical Development

Abstract found on PubMed

The inhibitory neurotransmitter ?-aminobutyric acid (GABA) plays an important role in the modulation of neuronal excitability, and a disruption of GABAergic transmission contributes to the pathogenesis of some seizure disorders. Although many currently available antiseizure medications do act at least in part by potentiating GABAergic transmission, there is an opportunity for further research aimed at developing more innovative GABA-targeting therapies. The present article summarizes available evidence on a number of such treatments in clinical development. These can be broadly divided into three groups. The first group consists of positive allosteric modulators of GABAA receptors and includes Staccato® alprazolam (an already marketed benzodiazepine being repurposed in epilepsy as a potential rescue inhalation treatment for prolonged and repetitive seizures), the ?2/3/5 subtype-selective agents darigabat and ENX-101, and the orally active neurosteroids ETX155 and LPCN 2101. A second group comprises two drugs already marketed for non-neurological indications, which could be repurposed as treatments for seizure disorders. These include bumetanide, a diuretic agent that has undergone clinical trials in phenobarbital-resistant neonatal seizures and for which the rationale for further development in this indication is under debate, and ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug currently investigated in a randomized double-blind trial in focal epilepsy. The last group comprises a series of highly innovative therapies, namely GABAergic interneurons (NRTX-001) delivered via stereotactic cerebral implantation as a treatment for mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, an antisense oligonucleotide (STK-001) aimed at upregulating NaV1.1 currents and restoring the function of GABAergic interneurons, currently tested in a trial in patients with Dravet syndrome, and an adenoviral vector-based gene therapy (ETX-101) scheduled for investigation in Dravet syndrome. Another agent, a subcutaneously administered neuroactive peptide (NRP2945) that reportedly upregulates the expression of GABAA receptor ? and ? subunits is being investigated, with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and other epilepsies as proposed indications. The diversity of the current pipeline underscores a strong interest in the GABA system as a target for new treatment development in epilepsy. To date, limited clinical data are available for these investigational treatments and further studies are required to assess their potential value in addressing unmet needs in epilepsy management.