Epileptic spasms during infancy (infantile spasms) represent a serious treatment and social problem despite their rare occurrence. Current treatments include hormonal therapy (adrenocorticotropin-ACTH or corticosteroids) or vigabatrin (per se or in the combination). These treatments are partially effective and with potentially significant adverse effects. Thus, the search for new effective drugs is warranted.
Researchers tested efficacy of a novel fusion peptide AQB-565 developed by Aequus Biopharma in a model of infantile spasms consisting of prenatal exposure to betamethasone and repeated postnatal trigger of spasms with N-methyl-d-aspartic acid (NMDA). AQB-565 molecule includes the first 24 amino acids of ACTH, a ten amino acid linker and a modified melanocyte-stimulating hormone molecule. In contrast to ACTH with almost uniform activity over all peripheral and central melanocortin receptor isoforms, AQB is preferentially active on central melanocortin receptors MC3 and MC4. Here, we used equivalent doses of rat ACTH (full molecule) and AQB-565 and compared their efficacy in a prospective randomized test against of repeated bouts of spasms on postnatal days (P)12, P13 and P15 in the rat model.
All doses of ACTH (range 0.02-1.0 mg/kg s.c.) and all doses but one of AQB-565 in the same range suppressed spasms in P15 rats (treatment stopped on P14). There was no dose-dependent effect and both compounds had all-or-none effect that is similar to clinical outcome of hormonal treatment of infantile spasms in children. Thus, AQB-565 may represent a novel treatment of infantile spasms similarly effective as ACTH but with potentially limited side effects.