Researchers from UNSW and the University of Melbourne have discovered a mechanism that could be used to slash by almost two-thirds the number of seizures endured by some epileptics.

The research, which has just been published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, shows seizures are dramatically reduced by a new targeted treatment approach in a rat model of genetic generalised epilepsy.

It has been known for some time that a particular transmitter, neuropeptide Y, (NPY) has the ability to modulate seizures. Now the researchers have discovered that NPY does this by acting on one of three receptors in the brain. This receptor could be the target for drug therapies relating to Absence Epilepsy.

This type of epilepsy is a condition in which seizures can occur frequently - sometimes hundreds in a day. The seizures are short, lasting between two and 20 seconds. The condition occurs in children and may continue into or even start in adulthood.

"It significantly affects sufferers' lives, but so far the drug therapies have been less than ideal," said the lead author, Margaret Morris, Professor of Pharmacology, in the School of Medical Sciences at UNSW and honorary Professor at the University of Melbourne. "Our research offers a possible new target for more effective and better tolerated drugs."

"The good thing about our finding is that if this mechanism in the brain is used as a target, people's appetite and weight is not likely to be affected, unlike the side effects of some existing therapies.

"We are quite a way down the route of developing a drug which could target this," she said. "But there are still some hurdles to finding a good way to deliver any therapy."

About Generalised Epilepsy with Absence Seizures:

(From Epilepsy Action Australia)

CONTACT DETAILS: Professor Margaret Morris, 02 9385 1560 or 0404 790 699; Susi Hamilton, UNSW Media unit, 02 9385 1583 or 0422 934 024