Repurposing dimethyl fumarate as an antiepileptogenic and disease-modifying treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy

Sereen Sandouka, Prince Kumar Singh, Aseel Saadi, Rhoda Olowe Taiwo, Yara Sheeni, Taige Zhang, Larin Deeb, Michelle Guignet, Steve H. White, Tawfeeq Shekh-Ahmad*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Epilepsy affects over 65 million people worldwide and significantly burdens patients, caregivers, and society. Drug-resistant epilepsy occurs in approximately 30% of patients and growing evidence indicates that oxidative stress contributes to the development of such epilepsies. Activation of the Nrf2 pathway, which is involved in cellular defense, offers a potential strategy for reducing oxidative stress and epilepsy treatment. Dimethyl fumarate (DMF), an Nrf2 activator, exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and is used to treat multiple sclerosis. Methods: The expression of Nrf2 and its related genes in vehicle or DMF treated rats were determined via RT-PCR and Western blot analysis. Neuronal cell death was evaluated by immunohistochemical staining. The effects of DMF in preventing the onset of epilepsy and modifying the disease were investigated in the kainic acid-induced status epilepticus model of temporal lobe epilepsy in rats. The open field, elevated plus maze and T-Maze spontaneous alteration tests were used for behavioral assessments. Results: We demonstrate that administration of DMF following status epilepticus increased Nrf2 activity, attenuated status epilepticus-induced neuronal cell death, and decreased seizure frequency and the total number of seizures compared to vehicle-treated animals. Moreover, DMF treatment reversed epilepsy-induced behavioral deficits in the treated rats. Moreover, DMF treatment even when initiated well after the diagnosis of epilepsy, reduced symptomatic seizures long after the drug was eliminated from the body. Conclusions: Taken together, these findings suggest that DMF, through the activation of Nrf2, has the potential to serve as a therapeutic target for preventing epileptogenesis and modifying epilepsy.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number796
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 8 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • Dimethyl fumarate
  • Drug-resistant epilepsy
  • Nrf2
  • Status epilepticus
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy


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