Researchers unlock access to pain relief potential of cannabis

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University of Guelph researchers are the first to uncover how the cannabis plant creates important pain-relieving molecules that are 30 times more powerful at reducing inflammation than Aspirin.

The discovery unlocks the potential to create a naturally derived that would offer potent relief without the risk of addiction of other painkillers.

"There's clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic that go beyond opioids," said Prof. Tariq Akhtar, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, who worked on the study with MCB professor Steven Rothstein. "These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers."

Using a combination of biochemistry and genomics, the researchers were able to determine how cannabis makes two important molecules called cannflavin A and cannflavin B.

Known as "flavonoids," cannflavins A and B were first identified in 1985, when research verified they provide anti-inflammatory benefits that were nearly 30 times more effective gram-for-gram than acetylsalicylic acid (sold as Aspirin).

However, further investigation into the molecules stalled for decades in part because research on cannabis was highly regulated. With cannabis now legal in Canada and genomics research greatly advanced, Akhtar and Rothstein decided to analyze cannabis to understand how Cannabis sativa biosynthesizes cannflavins.

"Our objective was to better understand how these molecules are made, which is a relatively straightforward exercise these days," said Akhtar. "There are many sequenced genomes that are publicly available, including the genome of Cannabis sativa, which can be mined for information. If you know what you're looking for, one can bring genes to life, so to speak, and piece together how molecules like cannflavins A and B are assembled."

With the genomic information at hand, they applied classical biochemistry techniques to verify which cannabis genes were required to create cannflavins A and B. Their full findings were recently published in the journal Phytochemistry.

These findings provide the opportunity to create natural health products containing these important molecules.

"Being able to offer a new pain relief option is exciting, and we are proud that our work has the potential to become a new tool in the pain relief arsenal," said Rothstein.

Currently, sufferers often need to use opioids, which work by blocking the brain's pain receptors but carry the risk of significant side effects and addiction. Cannflavins would target pain with a different approach, by reducing inflammation.

"The problem with these molecules is they are present in cannabis at such low levels, it's not feasible to try to engineer the to create more of these substances," said Rothstein. "We are now working to develop a biological system to create these , which would give us the opportunity to engineer large quantities."

The research team has partnered with a Toronto-based company, Anahit International Corp., which has licensed a patent from the University of Guelph to biosynthesize cannflavin A and B outside of the cannabis plant.

"Anahit looks forward to working closely with University of Guelph researchers to develop effective and safe anti-inflammatory medicines from cannabis phytochemicals that would provide an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs," said Anahit chief operating officer Darren Carrigan.

"Anahit will commercialize the application of cannflavin A and B to be accessible to consumers through a variety of medical and athletic products such as creams, pills, sports drinks, transdermal patches and other innovative options."


Explore further

Could marijuana be an effective pain alternative to prescription medications?

More information: Kevin A Rea et al, Biosynthesis of cannflavins A and B from Cannabis sativa L, Phytochemistry (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2019.05.009
Citation: Researchers unlock access to pain relief potential of cannabis (2019, July 24) retrieved 24 August 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-07-access-pain-relief-potential-cannabis.html
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Jul 24, 2019
So often, the conniving seek a way to introduce something loathsome into general use by claiming it serves a benefitical purpose. And the gullible and conniving accept the assertions. But, consider, the cannabidiol being so extolled exists tightly linked with tetrahyrdocannabinol in the plant. Those trying to shill for the massive insinuating of recreational marijuana use into society insist that the tetrahydrocannabinol won't be used. But in obtaining the cannabidiol, they can be said also to be refining out the tetrahydrocannabinol! What are they going to do with that? Release it into the air, put it in water systems?
And note the "assurance" that there is no "risk". That's the same thing they were saying when they were trying to push the other substances that have been found to be dangerous. Did they ever mention any danger of addiction from opioids?

Jul 24, 2019
Not for severe pain... Now the whole nation is absolutely naked to real pain control for the highway robbery known as "opioid (opiate) crisis". Opiates as MEDICINE are essential and DO NOT think for one microsecond folks who need them are getting them. We have a pain crisis and legitimate pain patients in MMJ free States are suiciding for the DOJ/AG money grab. Maybe %80 of suicides now have aspects of untreated neurological pain in them. You maybe next to be told "No". Stay out of the hospital, drive safely, don't get that surgery, Lupus, Lyme, arthritis, steroid injections or arthritis because there is now nothing for you and SEVERE pain. In fact say anything but do not call cannabis a pain killer... True biological addiction is 4 in 100 and always %1.0. Od death is almost impossible with a prescription. Multi-drug, illicit street fentanyl is your killer, not Oxycodone. The increase in treating under-treated severe pain simply paralleled the flood of illicits and money grabs.

Jul 29, 2019
Scientists from my country developing commercial application both as oral and topical uses

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