New cannabis discovery could lead to better treatments for epilepsy
Release Date 12 September 2012
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 natural compound 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 experimental models commonly used in epilepsy drug discovery.
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'.
The findings are reported in the British Journal of Pharmacology 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 chronic condition 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 cognitive abilities 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.
Epilepsy affects approximately 1% of people worldwide, and is caused by excessive electrical activity in the brain, which leads to seizures that are in some cases fatal.
Please contact Pete Castle at the University of Reading press office for more information on 0118 378 7391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors:
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: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.02207.x
The paper is available here: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.02207.x.
About the University of Reading
The University of Reading is a global University ranked in the top 1% of universities world-wide (THE World University Rankings 2011).
The University of Reading is one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The University is ranked in the top 20 for the number of awards it received from research councils for 2010/11. In total we received 38 awards, placing us at position 20 out of 218 institutions.
Standards of teaching are excellent - the University scored highly in the National Student Survey 2011. 89% of Reading students responding to the survey stated they were satisfied with the quality of their course.
About GW Pharmaceuticals
GW was founded in 1998 and listed on the AIM, a market of the London Stock Exchange, in June 2001. Operating under license from the UK Home Office, the company researches and develops cannabinoid pharmaceutical products for patients who suffer from a range of serious ailments, in particular multiple sclerosis and cancer pain. GW has assembled a large in-house scientific team with expertise in cannabinoid science as well as experience in the development of both plant-based prescription pharmaceutical products and medicines containing controlled substances.
GW occupies a world leading position in cannabinoids and has developed an extensive international network of the most prominent scientists in the field. More about GW >>>