Seizure-Suppressant and Neuroprotective Effects of Encapsulated BDNF-Producing Cells in a Rat Model of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

C Falcicchia, G Paolone, DF Emerich, F Lovisari, WJ Bell, T Fradet, LU Wahlberg, M Simonato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) may represent a therapeutic for chronic epilepsy, but evaluating its potential is complicated by difficulties in its delivery to the brain. Here, we describe the effects on epileptic seizures of encapsulated cell biodelivery (ECB) devices filled with genetically modified human cells engineered to release BDNF. These devices, implanted into the hippocampus of pilocarpine-treated rats, highly decreased the frequency of spontaneous seizures by more than 80%. These benefits were associated with improved cognitive performance, as epileptic rats treated with BDNF performed significantly better on a novel object recognition test. Importantly, long-term BDNF delivery did not alter normal behaviors such as general activity or sleep/wake patterns. Detailed immunohistochemical analyses revealed that the neurological benefits of BDNF were associated with several anatomical changes, including reduction in degenerating cells and normalization of hippocampal volume, neuronal counts (including parvalbumin-positive interneurons), and neurogenesis. In conclusion, the present data suggest that BDNF, when continuously released in the epileptic hippocampus, reduces the frequency of generalized seizures, improves cognitive performance, and reverts many histological alterations associated with chronic epilepsy. Thus, ECB device-mediated long-term supplementation of BDNF in the epileptic tissue may represent a valid therapeutic strategy against epilepsy and some of its co-morbidities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-224
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Therapy - Methods and Clinical Development
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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