Implantable device shows potential as epilepsy treatment

An implantable device that delivers therapeutic protein into the brain reduces seizures by 93% in epileptic rats

Original source: Physics World

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions, affecting millions of individuals of all ages, and characterized by debilitating seizures. Current antiepileptic drugs are ineffective in one third of all patients, who often experience an increased frequency of seizures that may become associated with cognitive decline and psychiatric disorders.

Motivated by the need for an effective and well-tolerated epilepsy therapy, a research team from the University of Ferrara and Gloriana Therapeutics has developed an implantable device that delivers high and consistent levels of therapeutic protein directly to the brain. The slender device can be implanted into diseased areas of the brain where it secretes protein through its permeable distal tip.

Giovanna Paolone and colleagues have investigated the use of this Gloriana targeted cellular delivery system to deliver glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) — a protein that may help suppress epileptic activity — directly to the hippocampus of epileptic rats (J. Neuroscience 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0435-18.2018).

When implanted into a rat’s hippocampus, the device continued to secrete GDNF and produced high levels in hippocampal tissue. The treatment rapidly and progressively reduced seizures — by 75% within two weeks and ultimately leading to a 93% reduction at three months. This effect persisted even after the researchers removed the device, suggesting potential disease-modifying benefits.

In addition to seizure reduction, the implant improved the rats’ anxiety-like symptoms and their performance in an object recognition task, indicating an improvement in cognition. Immunohistochemical analyses revealed that the GDNF treatment also corrected abnormalities in brain anatomy associated with epilepsy.

Overall, these results support ongoing development and pre-clinical evaluation of this technology, paving the way for eventual clinical translation into a new treatment for epilepsy.