Epilepsy therapy is based on antiseizure drugs that treat the symptom, seizures, rather than the disease and are ineffective in up to 30% of patients. There are no treatments for modifying the disease—preventing seizure onset, reducing severity or improving prognosis. Among the potential molecular targets for attaining these unmet therapeutic needs, we focused on oxidative stress since it is a pathophysiological process commonly occurring in experimental epileptogenesis and observed in human epilepsy. Using a rat model of acquired epilepsy induced by electrical status epilepticus, we show that oxidative stress occurs in both neurons and astrocytes during epileptogenesis, as assessed by measuring biochemical and histological markers. This evidence was validated in the hippocampus of humans who died following status epilepticus. Oxidative stress was reduced in animals undergoing epileptogenesis by a transient treatment with N-acetylcysteine and sulforaphane, which act to increase glutathione levels through complementary mechanisms. These antioxidant drugs are already used in humans for other therapeutic indications. This drug combination transiently administered for 2 weeks during epileptogenesis inhibited oxidative stress more efficiently than either drug alone. The drug combination significantly delayed the onset of epilepsy, blocked disease progression between 2 and 5 months post-status epilepticus and drastically reduced the frequency of spontaneous seizures measured at 5 months without modifying the average seizure duration or the incidence of epilepsy in animals. Treatment also decreased hippocampal neuron loss and rescued cognitive deficits. Oxidative stress during epileptogenesis was associated with de novo brain and blood generation of high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), a neuroinflammatory molecule implicated in seizure mechanisms. Drug-induced reduction of oxidative stress prevented HMGB1 generation, thus highlighting a potential novel mechanism contributing to therapeutic effects. Our data show that targeting oxidative stress with clinically used drugs for a limited time window starting early after injury significantly improves long-term disease outcomes. This intervention may be considered for patients exposed to potential epileptogenic insults.
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© The Author(s) (2019). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain. All rights reserved.
- Cognitive deficit
- Neuronal cell loss
- Spontaneous seizures