Understanding How the Brain Develops Epilepsy
Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is one of the most common types of epilepsy and is characterized by spontaneous, recurrent seizures that originate in the temporal lobe of the brain. TLE can be caused by initiating events, such as meningitis, stroke or a penetrating head injury. The initiating event is followed by a latent period called “epileptogenesis,” where the brain is transformed into one that is capable of generating spontaneous seizures. Scientists are trying to understand the mechanisms behind epileptogenesis with the hope of finding a way to halt epileptogenesis, and hopefully epilepsy. One of the processes that take place in a brain with epilepsy (in both human and experimental rodents) is abnormal and excessive inflammation.
Could Statins Be Useful in Epilepsy?
Statins are routinely prescribed as cholesterol-lowering agents. By inhibiting 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG–CoA) reductase, the enzyme that is responsible for synthesis of cholesterol, statins are widely used to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Statins have been found to show a decrease in levels of inflammatory markers; therefore, it makes sense to observe whether statins could be useful in epilepsy.
By using an experimental model of epilepsy in rodents, past studies have indicated that statins (in this case, lovastatin) can decrease neuronal death right after status epilepticus (a period of uninterrupted seizures that can lead to epilepsy). Although these acute studies seem promising, we know that epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder; hence, it is worthwhile to ask whether statins can be of potential use long-term. The authors of this recent paper asked precisely this question.
To study epilepsy in the lab, researchers use drugs that can produce seizures known as chemoconvulsants. In this study, the scientists administered pilocarpine (a chemoconvulsant) to rats. There were four treatment paradigms:
- Saline (control)
- Lovastatin alone
- Pilocarpine alone
- Pilocarpine + lovastatin
Statin Study Results
The authors found an increase in the levels of inflammatory markers when pilocarpine was administered; this was decreased in the chronic phase by lovastatin.
This study showed that lovastatin may have a beneficial role in decreasing inflammation during epileptogenesis. More studies need to be performed to know whether it can be beneficial in people with epilepsy, but this is a promising start.