Therapeutic epilepsy research: From pharmacological rationale to focal adenosine augmentation

Detlev Boison, Kerry Ann Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Epilepsy is a common seizure disorder affecting approximately 70 million people worldwide. Current pharmacotherapy is neuron-centered, frequently accompanied by intolerable side effects, and fails to be effective in about one third of patients. Therefore, new therapeutic concepts are needed. Recent research suggests an astrocytic basis of epilepsy, presenting the possibility of novel therapeutic targets. In particular, dysfunction of the astrocyte-controlled, endogenous, adenosine-based seizure control system of the brain is implicated in seizure generation. Thus, astrogliosis - a pathological hallmark of the epileptic brain - is associated with upregulation of the adenosine-removing enzyme adenosine kinase (ADK), resulting in focal adenosine deficiency. Both astrogliotic upregulation of ADK in epilepsy and transgenic overexpression of ADK are associated with seizures, and inhibition of ADK prevents seizures in a mouse model of pharmacoresistant epilepsy. These findings link adenosine deficiency with seizures and predict that adenosine augmentation therapies (AATs) will likely be effective in preventing seizures. Given the wide-spread systemic and central side effects of systemically administered AATs, focal AATs (i.e., limited to the astrogliotic lesion) are a necessity. This Commentary will discuss the pharmacological rationale for the development of focal AATs. Additionally, several AAT strategies will be discussed: (1) adenosine released from silk-based brain implants; (2) adenosine released from locally implanted encapsulated cells; (3) adenosine released from stem cell-derived brain implants; and (4) adenosine augmenting gene therapies. Finally, new developments and therapeutic challenges in using focal AATs for epilepsy therapy will critically be evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1428-1437
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenosine
  • Adenosine receptor
  • Epilepsy
  • Epileptogenesis
  • Focal drug delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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