Brain scan Brain scan Brain scans can show when the blood-brain barrier has been disrupted, a trauma that can lead to epileptic seizures. (Photo: sfam_photo/Shutterstock)

Blood-pressure drug could prevent epilepsy after injury

Study leaders say it can keep brain-trauma patients from developing seizure disorder.

A drug commonly used to fight high blood pressure has been found to prevent post-traumatic epilepsy and may also prevent brain damage, according to a report in the medical journal “Annals of Neurology." 

The drug, generically known as losartan (a common brand name is Cozaar), could have a significant impact on the treatment of this type of epilepsy, a seizure disorder that affects a large number of brain injury patients. Researchers say it’s the first time they’ve been able to stop epilepsy in its tracks, rather than simply treat its symptoms after it’s been diagnosed.

The report was published by a team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, the University of California-Berkeley and Charite-University Medicine in Germany.

“This study for the first time offers a new mechanism and an existing, FDA-approved drug to potentially prevent epilepsy in patients after brain injuries or after they develop an abnormal blood-brain barrier,” said Dr. Alon Friedman, associate professor of physiology and neurobiology at Ben-Gurion and co-leader of the study.

bloodbrainbarrier350 Diagram shows what happens when the blood-brain barrier is disrupted by a severe head injury. The result can be epileptic seizures. (Image: Greg Chin, Vlad Senatorov and Oscar Vasquez/UC Berkeley)

The scientists used lab rats to examine seizure prevention after administration of the drug. According to the study, 60 percent of the rats tested did not develop epilepsy, and of the remaining 40 percent that did, most had fewer and less severe symptoms than untreated rats.

Friedman said the drug is intended for limited use. He added that if a patient is given losartan for three weeks after injury, it’s enough to prevent the onset of epilepsy.

The researchers discovered the benefits of losartan after searching through, and testing, a long list of drugs. Now, the Ben-Gurion University lab works with nearby Soroka Medical Center to improve diagnoses for patients who have suffered a trauma.

That process involves using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect damage to the blood-brain barrier, which determines whether losartan is the appropriate preventative treatment.

Post-traumatic epilepsy is a chronic condition that results from brain damage caused by physical trauma; the more severe the injury, the more likely a person is to develop epilepsy. People who suffered skull fractures, concussions, subdural hematomas and other head injuries are at risk.

“This is a very exciting result, telling us that the drug worked to prevent the development of epilepsy and not by suppressing the symptoms,” Friedman said

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