Animal models for seizures and epilepsy have played a fundamental role in advancing our understanding of basic mechanisms underlying ictogenesis and epileptogenesis and have been instrumental in the discovery and preclinical development of novel antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). However, there is growing concern that the efficacy of drug treatment of epilepsy has not substantially improved with the introduction of new AEDs, which, at least in part, may be due to the fact that the same simple screening models, i.e., the maximal electroshock seizure (MES) and s.c. pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) seizure tests, have been used as gatekeepers in AED discovery for >6 decades. It has been argued that these old models may identify only drugs that share characteristics with existing drugs, and are unlikely to have an effect on refractory epilepsies. Indeed, accumulating evidence with several novel AEDs, including levetiracetan, has shown that the MES and PTZ models do not identify all potential AEDs but instead may fail to discover compounds that have great potential efficacy but work through mechanisms not tested by these models. Awareness of the limitations of acute seizure models comes at a critical crossroad. Clearly, preclinical strategies of AED discovery and development need a conceptual shift that is moving away from using models that identify therapies for the symptomatic treatment of epilepsy to those that may be useful for identifying therapies that are more effective in the refractory population and that may ultimately lead to an effective cure in susceptible individuals by interfering with the processes underlying epilepsy. To realize this goal, the molecular mechanisms of the next generation of therapies must necessarily evolve to include targets that contribute to epileptogenesis and pharmacoresistance in relevant epilepsy models.
Copyright © 2011 British Epilepsy Association. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.