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Testing of putative antiseizure medications in a preclinical Dravet syndrome zebrafish model

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Brain Commun. 2024 Apr 16;6(3):fcae135. doi: 10.1093/braincomms/fcae135. eCollection 2024.


Dravet syndrome is a severe genetic epilepsy primarily caused by de novo mutations in a voltage-activated sodium channel gene (SCN1A). Patients face life-threatening seizures that are largely resistant to available anti-seizure medications. Preclinical Dravet syndrome animal models are a valuable tool to identify candidate anti-seizure medications for these patients. Among these, scn1lab mutant zebrafish, exhibiting spontaneous seizure-like activity, are particularly amenable to large-scale drug screening. Thus far, we have screened more than 3000 drug candidates in scn1lab zebrafish mutants, identifying valproate, stiripentol, and fenfluramine e.g. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, with clinical application in the Dravet syndrome population. Successful phenotypic screening in scn1lab mutant zebrafish is rigorous and consists of two stages: (i) a locomotion-based assay measuring high-velocity convulsive swim behaviour and (ii) an electrophysiology-based assay, using in vivo local field potential recordings, to quantify electrographic seizure-like events. Historically, nearly 90% of drug candidates fail during translation from preclinical models to the clinic. With such a high failure rate, it becomes necessary to address issues of replication and false positive identification. Leveraging our scn1lab zebrafish assays is one approach to address these problems. Here, we curated a list of nine anti-seizure drug candidates recently identified by other groups using preclinical Dravet syndrome models: 1-Ethyl-2-benzimidazolinone, AA43279, chlorzoxazone, donepezil, lisuride, mifepristone, pargyline, soticlestat and vorinostat. First-stage locomotion-based assays in scn1lab mutant zebrafish identified only 1-Ethyl-2-benzimidazolinone, chlorzoxazone and lisuride. However, second-stage local field potential recording assays did not show significant suppression of spontaneous electrographic seizure activity for any of the nine anti-seizure drug candidates. Surprisingly, soticlestat induced frank electrographic seizure-like discharges in wild-type control zebrafish. Taken together, our results failed to replicate clear anti-seizure efficacy for these drug candidates highlighting a necessity for strict scientific standards in preclinical identification of anti-seizure medications.

PMID:38707709 | PMC:PMC11069116 | DOI:10.1093/braincomms/fcae135

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