A new study has revealed that an amino acid whose role in the body has been all but a mystery appears to act as a potent seizure inhibitor in mice.
In a series of experiments, the amino acid D-leucine, found in many foods and certain bacteria, interrupted prolonged seizures, a serious condition known as status epilepticus and it did so just as effectively as the epilepsy drug diazepam, the choice of treatment for patients in the throes of convulsions, but without any of the drug’s sedative side effects.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine results also suggest that D-leucine works differently from all current anti-seizure therapies, a finding that may pave the way for much-needed treatments for the nearly one-third of people with epilepsy with drug-resistant forms of the condition, marked by recalcitrant seizures.
Lead author Adam Hartman said that epilepsy treatments over the last 50 years have not improved much, so there’s an acute need for better therapeutic approaches, especially for the millions of people with drug-resistant epilepsy. If confirmed in larger animals and humans, their results carry a real promise for those suffering from unremitting seizures.
Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are sources of energy and are critical for many biochemical reactions in the body, but many specific roles of the various amino acids remain elusive.
Senior investigator J. Marie Hardwick said that their results suggest that D-leucine affects neurons differently from other known therapies to control seizures, adding that this finding gives them hope of new approaches to epilepsy on the horizon.
The study appears in the journal Neurobiology of Disease.