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Epilepsy Res. 2012 Feb;98(2-3):104-15. doi: 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2011.10.006. Epub 2011 Nov 3.

Systems biology impact on antiepileptic drug discovery.

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Department of Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, University of Mons, Ave. Champ de Mars 6, B-7000 Mons, Belgium.


Systems biology (SB), a recent trend in bioscience research to consider the complex interactions in biological systems from a holistic perspective, sees the disease as a disturbed network of interactions, rather than alteration of single molecular component(s). SB-relying network pharmacology replaces the prevailing focus on specific drug-receptor interaction and the corollary of rational drug design of "magic bullets", by the search for multi-target drugs that would act on biological networks as "magic shotguns". Epilepsy being a multi-factorial, polygenic and dynamic pathology, SB approach appears particularly fit and promising for antiepileptic drug (AED) discovery. In fact, long before the advent of SB, AED discovery already involved some SB-like elements. A reported SB project aimed to find out new drug targets in epilepsy relies on a relational database that integrates clinical information, recordings from deep electrodes and 3D-brain imagery with histology and molecular biology data on modified expression of specific genes in the brain regions displaying spontaneous epileptic activity. Since hitting a single target does not treat complex diseases, a proper pharmacological promiscuity might impart on an AED the merit of being multi-potent. However, multi-target drug discovery entails the complicated task of optimizing multiple activities of compounds, while having to balance drug-like properties and to control unwanted effects. Specific design tools for this new approach in drug discovery barely emerge, but computational methods making reliable in silico predictions of poly-pharmacology did appear, and their progress might be quite rapid. The current move away from reductionism into network pharmacology allows expecting that a proper integration of the intrinsic complexity of epileptic pathology in AED discovery might result in literally anti-epileptic drugs.

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