Research from pharmacologists at the University of Sydney provides new insights into how cannabis extracts may work to treat epilepsy.
The study for the first time reports that three acidic cannabinoids found in cannabis reduced seizures in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome, an intractable form of childhood epilepsy.
The study has been published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.
“From the early nineteenth century cannabis extracts were used in Western medicine to treat seizures but cannabis prohibition got in the way of advancing the science,” said Associate Professor Jonathon Arnold from the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics and the Sydney Pharmacy School.
“Now we are able to explore how the compounds in this plant can be adapted for modern therapeutic treatments.”
In 2015, Barry and Joy Lambert made an historic donation to the University of Sydney to advance scientific research on medicinal cannabis and cannabinoid therapeutics. Barry and Joy’s granddaughter Katelyn suffers from Dravet syndrome, which features frequent seizures and causes delays in cognitive and motor development. Conventional therapies often do not provide adequate seizure control and patients have a reduced quality of life.
The Lambert family say they witnessed a dramatic improvement in Katelyn’s health using a cannabis extract and became ardent supporters of cannabis for therapeutic treatment. They also wished to better understand how cannabis works to treat epilepsy and other health conditions.
“After using hemp oil for treatment, we got our daughter back. Instead of fearing constant seizures we had some hope that our daughter could have a life worth living. It was like the noise cleared from her mind and she was able to wake up. Today Katelyn really enjoys her life,” said Michael Lambert, Katelyn’s father.
In 2015 the Lambert Initiative established a preclinical epilepsy research program to help understand how cannabis extracts, a mixture of hundreds of bioactive molecules, have anticonvulsant effects.
Associate Professor Arnold said: “Our research program is systematically testing whether the various constituents of cannabis reduce seizures in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome. We started by testing the compounds individually and found several cannabis constituents with anticonvulsant effects.”
“In this latest paper we describe the anticonvulsant effects of three rarer cannabinoids, all of which are cannabinoid acids.”