Severe seizure activity is associated with recurring cycles of excitotoxicity and oxidative stress that result in progressive neuronal damage and death. Intervention to halt these pathological processes is a compelling disease-modifying strategy for the treatment of seizure disorders. In the present study, a core small molecule with anticonvulsant activity has been structurally optimized for neuroprotection. Phenotypic screening of rat hippocampal cultures with nutrient medium depleted of antioxidants was utilized as a disease model. Increased cell death and decreased neuronal viability produced by acute treatment with glutamate or hydrogen peroxide were prevented by our novel molecules. The neuroprotection associated with this chemical series has marked structure activity relationships that focus on modification of the benzylic position of a 2-phenyl-2-hydroxyethyl sulfamide core structure. Complete separation between anticonvulsant activity and neuroprotective action was dependent on substitution at the benzylic carbon. Chiral selectivity was evident in that the S-enantiomer of the benzylic hydroxy group had neither neuroprotective nor anticonvulsant activity, while the R-enantiomer of the lead compound had full neuroprotective action at <40 nM and antiseizure activity in three animal models. These studies indicate that potent, multifunctional neuroprotective anticonvulsants are feasible within a single molecular entity.
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