Targeted Molecular Strategies for Genetic Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Emerging Lessons from Dravet Syndrome

Neuroscientist. 2023 Dec;29(6):732-750. doi: 10.1177/10738584221088244. Epub 2022 Apr 13.


Dravet syndrome is a severe developmental and epileptic encephalopathy mostly caused by heterozygous mutation of the SCN1A gene encoding the voltage-gated sodium channel α subunit Nav1.1. Multiple seizure types, cognitive deterioration, behavioral disturbances, ataxia, and sudden unexpected death associated with epilepsy are a hallmark of the disease. Recently approved antiseizure medications such as fenfluramine and cannabidiol have been shown to reduce seizure burden. However, patients with Dravet syndrome are still medically refractory in the majority of cases, and there is a high demand for new therapies aiming to improve behavioral and cognitive outcome. Drug-repurposing approaches for SCN1A-related Dravet syndrome are currently under investigation (i.e., lorcaserin, clemizole, and ataluren). New therapeutic concepts also arise from the field of precision medicine by upregulating functional SCN1A or by activating Nav1.1. These include antisense nucleotides directed against the nonproductive transcript of SCN1A with the poison exon 20N and against an inhibitory noncoding antisense RNA of SCN1A. Gene therapy approaches such as adeno-associated virus-based upregulation of SCN1A using a transcriptional activator (ETX101) or CRISPR/dCas technologies show promising results in preclinical studies. Although these new treatment concepts still need further clinical research, they offer great potential for precise and disease modifying treatment of Dravet syndrome.

Keywords: Dravet syndrome; SCN1A; epilepsy; precision medicine; therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic* / drug therapy
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic* / genetics
  • Epilepsy* / genetics
  • Humans
  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel / genetics
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders*
  • Seizures


  • NAV1.1 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel