A University of Newcastle researcher is poised to make a major medical breakthrough that could transform the lives of one in three epilepsy sufferers.
Approximately one per cent of the world’s population suffers from epilepsy and of those, 30 per cent fail to respond to the current anti-epileptic drugs (AED).
Professor Adam McCluskey, the director of the University’s Priority Research Centre for Chemical Biology, has been awarded $545,000 over three years from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to develop new types of anti-epileptic drugs. These new drugs will only act during an epileptic seizure and will benefit all epilepsy sufferers, especially those who do not respond to the current AEDs.
Professor McCluskey’s research aims to formulate an AED that targets the protein dynamin I, which is present in all humans, not just epilepsy sufferers. For non-epilepsy sufferers the normal frequency of the protein signalling is 20 times per second, but during an epileptic seizure, this signalling hits 500 times a second.
In people with epilepsy, dynamin I allows the prolongation of a seizure and the new AED will inhibit this protein to reduce the severity and duration of epileptic fits.
“We are world-leaders in dynamin inhibitors and they have become important tools for medical researchers around the world. Through our extensive research we have proof that by targeting dynamin l, we can directly inhibit the effects of the disease and reduce seizure severity and duration,” Professor McCluskey said.
Professor McCluskey said current AED development pathways had not changed notably in the past 40 years with the majority of AEDs dampening the release of crucial chemical signals. The current drugs also remain constantly active in the body.
“Unlike the current AEDs, our dynamin I inhibiting drugs, will only be triggered at the onset of a seizure. We believe our targeted approach will significantly enhance the day-to-day lives of those afflicted by epilepsy,” he said.
Epilepsy is more than three times as common as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy. The disease is more likely to be diagnosed in childhood or senior years however, it is not restricted to any age group or gender.
Professor McCluskey said the aim was to have the dynamin I-targeted drugs at clinical trials within the next five years.
For interviews: Professor Adam McCluskey on 02 4921 6486.
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