FDA Approved Anti Epilepsy Drug Shows Promise for Decreasing Stroke – Induced Brain Damage

Stroke is a major reason for long-term disability in the US, impacting over 795,000 People in America annually. But with respect to a new research, a drug currently approved to deal with epilepsy may also be successful in decreasing brain damage for people who have ischemic stroke – the most common kind of stroke.

retigabine: Is a FDA approved anti epilepsy drug, could decrease brain damage after ischemic stroke.
retigabine: Is a FDA approved anti epilepsy drug, could decrease brain damage after ischemic stroke.

The study team lead by Dr. Sonya Bierbower reported its results in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Ischemic stroke accounts for about 87% of all strokes in the US. It is triggered by an obstruction in the artery that provides the brain with oxygen-rich blood.

Ischemic stroke leads to death of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain. As a outcome, many sufferers may encounter partial or complete paralysis, issues with memory and thinking, problems with forming or understanding conversation, balance and mobility issues, and issues expressing or managing feelings.

While speech, physical and occupational treatment can assist recovery following stroke, the only drugs accepted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to decrease ischemic stroke-caused brain damage is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This is an intravenous medication that dissolves blood clots and enhances blood circulation to the brain.

But with respect to Dr. Bierbower and her team, several stroke sufferers are not able to get tPA; it is a powerful blood thinner that can lead to severe side effects.

Mice treated with retigabine following stroke ‘ran over the balance beam like gymnasts’

As such, the scientists examined alternative techniques to decrease brain damage right after ischemic stroke. Particularly, they looked to a drug known as retigabine (brand name Ezogabine) – an anticonvulsant previously accepted by the FDA to cure epilepsy.

Retigabine functions by opening the brain’s potassium ion channels, which stops the electrical activity of nerve cells.

Senior author Dr. Mark Shapiro explains “We believed if we could stop the neurons from firing, thus avoiding their electrical action, we could conserve their resources till their blood supply was recovered.”

For their research, the investigators examined the results of retigabine in mice that experienced ischemic stroke.

In a balance beam test, the team identified that mice treated with the medicine had no issues with balance or movability, in comparing with untreated mice. “You could not even tell they had a stroke,” claims Dr. Shapiro. “They ran throughout the balance beam like gymnasts.”

The investigators notice that because retigabine is accepted by the FDA as an anticonvulsant, physicians can use it off-label for the therapy of stroke sufferers.

However, a clinical study is required before the drug can be accepted particularly for stroke treatment. This is something the team says is underway.

Leaving comments on the team’s results, Dr. David F. Jimenez, professor and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the UT Health Science Center, states that:

“As a major trigger of death and disability, stroke creates a main risk to our community. It is very interesting to see that our collaborative work with our co-workers in physiology could offer a fantastic way to ameliorate the harmful results of stroke on our patients.”