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Oct 16, 2006

Screening Model for Epilepsy Drug Discovery, Based on Fruit Fly Model Organism

  • Cambria Biosciences presented a poster describing a screening method for antiepileptic drugs that utilizes the genetic model organism, the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, at the “36th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience” in Atlanta.

    “Because epilepsy is a disease that involves the neural circuitry of the brain, testing for potential therapeutic compounds in whole animals with an intact nervous system, as opposed to biochemical assays or single cell types, makes a lot of sense from a physiological point of view,” points out Leo Liu, M.D., president. “This assay using a simple laboratory organism gives us a means of tapping into more novel chemistries that could lead to new drugs for the many epileptic patients who are not effectively treated by the current generation of antiseizure medicines.”

    Geoff Stilwell, Ph.D., senior scientist at Cambria, found that a neurotoxin commonly used to induce seizures in experimental rodents when testing for antiepileptic drugs also causes seizure activity in fruit flies. Cambria researchers then engineered a screening system to systematically test chemical compounds for their ability to block the toxin-induced seizures in specially bred strains of fruit flies.

    Because fruit flies can be handled in very large numbers, the Cambria assay allows for a much larger number of chemical compounds to be screened for their antiepileptic therapeutic potential in a faster and more cost-efficient manner than is possible using laboratory rodents alone.

    “Although genetic studies have shown that the functions of genes and proteins are highly conserved between fruit flies and humans, we were surprised by how many known human antiepileptic drugs also prevented seizures in our Drosophila system,” says Dr. Stilwell. “Screening in Drosophila allows us to detect novel antiseizure compounds in a way that is high-throughput, sensitive, and specific.”


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