Previously undiscovered cannibis compound could lead to improved epilepsy treatment

September 13, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at the University of Reading have demonstrated for the first time that a previously unstudied chemical in cannabis could lead to more effective treatments for people with epilepsy.

The team at the University's Department of Pharmacy and School of Psychology have discovered that cannabidivarin (CBDV) - a largely ignored found in cannabis - has the potential to prevent more seizures, with few side effects such as uncontrollable shaking, caused by many existing anti-epileptic drugs.

In the study, carried out by the University of Reading in collaboration with GW Pharma and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, cannabidivarin strongly suppressed seizures in six different commonly used in epilepsy .

Cannabidivarin was also found to work when combined with drugs currently used to control epilepsy and, unlike other cannabinoids (unique components in cannabis) such as THC, is not psychoactive and therefore does not cause users to feel 'high'.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Dr Ben Whalley talking about the discovery.

The findings are reported in the journal.

Dr Ben Whalley is leading the study at the University of Reading alongside colleagues Dr Gary Stephens and Dr Claire Williams.

Dr Whalley said: "This is an enormously exciting milestone in our investigations into non-psychoactive elements of cannabis as treatments for epilepsy.

"There is a pressing need for better treatments for epilepsy. It's a with no cure and currently in around one third of cases, the currently available treatments do not work, cause serious side-effects and increase fatalities. Currently prescribed drugs to prevent fits can cause significant side-effects to individuals' motion and that can adversely affect the quality of life for people who have to take them every day.

"Our work has highlighted the potential for a solution based on cannabinoid science.  It has shown that cannabidivarin is the most effective and best tolerated anticonvulsant plant cannabinoid investigated to date."

Dr Stephen Wright, R&D director at GW Pharmaceuticals said: "These results further underscore the potential of naturally-derived cannabinoids as medicines to treat a broad range of diseases. GW has established a track record of discovering and commercialising such compounds with Sativex now on the market for treating spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis and in late stage development for the treatment of cancer pain. Our research into CBDV has consistently produced highly promising results demonstrating its potential as a novel anticonvulsant and GW hopes during 2013 to advance CBDV into human clinical trials."

Following the discovery, scientists at Reading are investigating the mechanisms by which cannabidivarin works to reduce seizures and are testing CBDV in chronic models of epilepsy that closely mimic the clinical condition. This work will be completed by the end of 2012.

affects approximately 1% of people worldwide, and is caused by excessive electrical activity in the brain, which leads to that are in some cases fatal.

Explore further: New research provides hope for those with epilepsy

More information: Reference: Hill AJ, Mercier MS, Hill TDM, Glyn SE, Jones NA, Yamasaki Y et al. (2012) Cannabidivarin is anticonvulsant in mouse and rat in vitro and in seizure models.  Br J Pharmacol doi.wiley.com/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.02207.x

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New type of prion may cause, transmit neurodegeneration

August 31, 2015

Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a neurodegenerative disorder with similarities to Parkinson's disease, is caused by a newly discovered type of prion, akin to the misfolded proteins involved in incurable progressive brain diseases ...

Deciphering the olfactory receptor code

August 31, 2015

In animals, numerous behaviors are governed by the olfactory perception of their surrounding world. Whether originating in the nose of a mammal or the antennas of an insect, perception results from the combined activation ...

How neurons get their branching shapes

August 31, 2015

For more than a hundred years, people have known that dendritic arbors—the projections that neurons use to receive information from other neurons—differ in size and shape depending on neuron type. Now, researchers at ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
3 / 5 (2) Sep 13, 2012
Cannabis. Like bacon, is there nothing it cannot do?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.