NC3Rs-funded research in amoeba helps understand treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy

Scientists from Royal Holloway University of London and University College London have identified a specific fatty acid, decanoic acid, to have potent anti-epileptic effects.

The study has been published today in Brain: Seizure control by decanoic acid through direct AMPA receptor inhibition. The researchers pinpointed decanoic acid as an efficient blocker of a key excitatory neurotransmitter receptor involved in seizure activity in the brain. To do that, they initially analysed many fats in a simple system that avoided the use of animals in experiments. Researchers identified decanoic acid, a fat that is provided in established dietary treatment for epilepsy, the ketogenic diet.

"By identifying that a specific fatty acid in the diet outperforms drugs currently used for controlling seizures, we will be able to develop better treatments with fewer side effects," said Professor Robin Williams (pictured) from Royal Holloway University of London.

This study builds on previous research funded by the NC3Rs, which successfully used amoeba cells in an initial screen to identify compounds efficient in seizure treatment. Standard animal procedures would involve up to 100 animals per chemical. By using the alternative approach to screen over 100 compounds, not only did the researchers potentially save thousands of animals, but they identified groups of ultra-potent compounds including decanoic acid.

"The discoveries reported in this paper show clear evidence that non-animal models can be successfully used in neuroscience research, where we have identified decanoic acid as the key ingredient of the diet leading to seizure control," said Professor Williams.

Read more about NC3Rs funding to Professor Williams.

Read the full paper The study has also been described in New Scientist.

In related news, one of the NC3Rs expert working groups has recently published a review on opportunities for improving animal welfare in rodent models of epilepsy and seizures

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