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How cannabis could be used to transform lives of children with autism

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Cannformatics will explore cannabis-responsive biomarkers in children with autism

The first study of its kind will explore cannabis-responsive biomarkers in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

A pilot study in the US aims to be the first step in helping parents and healthcare professionals find the most effective way to use cannabis to improve the health and quality of life of children.

The observational study, led by Cannformatics – a US biotech startup – is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Bonni Goldstein, a Los Angeles-based paediatrician who specialises in cannabis medicine.

Researchers will explore how to personalise medical cannabis treatments for individual children, through the identification and application of cannabis-responsive biomarkers found in saliva.

Its aim is to create a trusted resource for parents and health care professionals by providing data and insights to build an effective cannabis regimen for children with ASD.

Saliva samples from children with ASD will be collected pre- and post-consumption of a regularly prescribed dose of medical cannabis, as well as from age-matched neurotypical children.

Cannformatics’ platform will identify biomarkers that significantly changed following the consumption of medical cannabis, while samples from neurotypical children are collected and analysed to determine the baseline for healthy physiological range.

Participants will receive a report showing their individual changes in biomarkers related to ASD symptoms before and after medical cannabis consumption and the study’s overall findings will be published in a scientific journal.

To qualify for participation in the study, all children with ASD are required to be current patients of Dr. Goldstein.

Dr Goldstein, who is also medical Director for Canna – a California-based medical practice devoted to educating patients about the use of cannabis for serious and chronic medical conditions, said: “Identifying cannabis-responsive biomarkers furthers scientific understanding of the role cannabis plays in regulating the endocannabinoid system in children with autism.

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“Today I have patients who are responding well to medical cannabis treatment with an improvement in quality of life and minimal side effects. I am optimistic that the data from this study will lead to more positive outcomes for children with autism.

Cannformatics aims to deliver predictable and repeatable science-based medical cannabis recommendations to improve health and quality of life.

Its early successes include identifying two cannabis-responsive biomarkers related to General Anxiety Disorder.

Ken Epstein, Chief Commercial Officer and co-founder of Cannformatics, commented: “This study is the first step toward providing families and health care providers treating autism with recommendations that will provide predictable and repeatable outcomes while improving overall impact.”

The study will also bring together three industry leaders in using cannabis to treat ASD, including Ray Mirzabegian founder of Canniatric and Rhonda Moeller, and Jenni Mai of Whole Plant Access for Autism.

Epstein added: “We are excited to have three medical cannabis trailblazers, who work tirelessly to help their children along with thousands of other families to effectively use medical cannabis. The three of them along with Dr. Goldstein are truly pioneers in using medical cannabis to treat ASD.”

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CBD dominant cannabis does not influence driving skills – study

Participants showed no signs of impairment when it came to driving but they did test positive for trace levels of THC

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A study suggests that CBD-dominant cannabis does not influence the skills associated with driving such as reaction time, concentration, time perception or balance.

The Swiss study examined CBD and THC dominant cannabis flowers to see if they impacted on neurocognitive or psychomotor skills.

Some of the participants were given a CBD dominant strain that had a 16.6:0.9 per cent ratio, and others were given a placebo.

After inhaling the cannabis, participants were asked to undergo the Vienna Test System TRAFFIC. This measures reaction time, behaviour in stressful situations, concentration and performance. They also took further tests to determine their fitness to drive, three separate balance tests and coordination along with vital signs such as blood pressure and pulse.

Driving and cannabis

The participants showed no signs of impairment when it came to driving but they did test positive for trace levels of THC in their blood. The blood tests were taken 45 minutes after consuming the CBD dominant cannabis.

The authors noted that the slight change in THC levels within the system would potentially place patients in violation of traffic safety laws.

The researchers noted: “This finding suggests that higher CBD concentrations cause a negative allosteric effect in the endocannabinoid system, preventing the formation of such symptoms. Nevertheless, it is recommended that consumers refrain from driving for several hours after smoking CBD-rich marijuana, as legal THC concentration limits may be exceeded.”

Driving and THC tests

When it comes to THC and roadside testing, new research revealed that THC levels in blood and saliva are poor measures of impairment.

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Researchers analysed a range of studies on the relationship between driving performance and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations in blood and saliva.

The researchers took data from 28 different publications that involved ether ingested or inhaled cannabis. They characterised the relationships between blood and saliva THC concentrations, driving performance and skills such as reaction time or concentration.

When it came to infrequent cannabis users, there were some significant correlations between blood and oral levels of THC and impairments were observed. However, It was noted that these relationships were ‘weak.’

There was no significant relationship noted for the more regular consumers.

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Epilepsy

CBGA may be ‘more potent’ than CBD against seizures in Dravet syndrome

Dr Lyndsey Anderson said there is more to explore when it comes to creating more treatment options for Dravet syndrome.

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Athletes: A row of test tubes containing CBGA oil with a doctors white gloved hand holding one up to the light

Scientists say they have found the ‘Mother of all cannabinoids’ which may help to reduce seizures in Dravet syndrome.

A new study on mice from the University of Sydney found that three acidic cannabinoids found in cannabis reduced seizures in Dravet syndrome, an intractable form of childhood epilepsy.

The three cannabinoids are cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), cannabidivarinic acid (CBDVA), cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA). All three but CBGA in particular “may contribute to the effects of cannabis-based products in childhood epilepsy” noted the researchers and were found to potentially have ‘anticonvulsant properties.”

The study marks the first time that three acidic cannabinoids were found to potentially help reduce seizures for Dravet syndrome.

Speaking with Cannabis Health News, the lead author of the study, Dr Lyndsey Anderson, said: “We found that CBGA exhibited both anticonvulsant and pro-convulsant effects. CBGA was more potent than CBD against febrile seizures in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome. We also found that a combination of CBGA and clobazam was more effective than either treatment alone. Additionally, we found that CBGA was anticonvulsant in the maximal electroshock acute seizure model, a model for generalized tonic-clonic seizures.”

She added: “CBGA did, however, present some proconvulsant effects. The frequency of spontaneous seizures in the mouse model of Dravet syndrome was increased with a high dose of CBGA. Also, CBGA was proconvulsant in the 6-Hz acute seizure model, a model of focal, psychomotor seizures.”

Although CBGA shows promise, Dr Anderson also stressed that it needs more research before it can replace CBD. She cautioned that Dravet syndrome patients may still need to proceed with caution.

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“Artisanal cannabis-based products are believed to reduce seizures in Dravet syndrome patients,” she said. “As these oils contain rare cannabinoids like CBGA, it is possible CBGA then contributes to the anticonvulsant effects of these artisanal cannabis oils. However, there were proconvulsant effects observed with CBGA, suggesting that Dravet syndrome patients may need to proceed with caution. The proconvulsant liability of CBGA would need to be addressed before it replaced CBD as an anticonvulsant.”

What is CBGA?

Sometimes referred to as ‘the mother of all cannabinoids,’ CBGA is the precursor molecule to many different cannabinioids including CBD and THC. It is thought to help some diseases such as colon cancer, metabolic disease and cardiovascular disease. It is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid much like CBD.

Dr Anderson explains that more research is needed to explain how the three cannabinoids work together.

“We don’t know how they work together yet,” she said. “We found that CBGA, CBDVA and CBGVA were all individually anticonvulsant against thermally induced seizures in the mouse model of Dravet syndrome. We did not investigate whether a combination of these three cannabinoids would result in a greater anticonvulsant effect than either cannabinoid alone. Future work will definitely explore this possibility.”  

CBGA future research

This isn’t the end of the research into CBGA for Dravet Syndrome. Dr Anderson said there is more to explore when it comes to creating more treatment options for Dravet syndrome.

 

She said: “Next on the horizon for this research is to explore whether the anticonvulsant properties of CBDVA and CBGVA translate to other seizure types including spontaneous seizures in the mouse model of Dravet syndrome. Additionally, we have extensively interrogated the anticonvulsant potential of individual cannabinoids and identified ten with anticonvulsant properties.”

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“We are now interested in investigating what happens when we combine these anticonvulsant properties. It remains an open possibility that greater anticonvulsant effects are achieved when the cannabinoids are administered in combination.”

The study was recently published in the British Journal of Pharmacology (DOI: 10.1111/bph.15661)

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Epilepsy

CBD-enriched cannabis oil may reduce seizures in children with West syndrome

Four of the eight children had less than half the seizures they had before the trial.

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Seizures: A black and blue x-ray of a brain on a black background

A new study on CBD-enriched cannabis oil for seizures involving eight children revealed that electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities improved by 20 to 80 percent.

The study on seizures, published online, examines if CBD-enriched cannabis oil used as an add-on therapy could help children with condition that causes spasms. It found that four of the eight children in the trial had less than half the seizures they had before the trial.

The researchers reviewed the experiences of eight West syndrome children who were refractory to anti-seizure medications between May 2020 and March 2021. The children were aged between sixteen to twenty-two months and each received a dose of 25:1 CBD to THC as an add-on therapy.

Seizure decrease

The participants record a mean of 63 seizures per day with the lower rate recorded as 31 and the higher amount recorded as 79.

At the follow-up appointment, two of the patients reported a 75 percent to 99 percent decrease in frequency. A further two children recorded a 50 percent decrease while one patient did not experience any changes at all.

The authors wrote: “The index of EEG (electroencephalogram) abnormalities improved between 20 per cent and 80 per cent in seven patients concurrently with the reduction in seizures.”

“Tolerability among those patients experiencing fewer seizures was good and, overall, “adverse effects were mild and transient.”

Epilepsy seizures

West syndrome is a form of epilepsy. According to Epilepsy Action UK, West syndrome happens in about one in every 2,5000 to 3000 children. This means that about 350 to 400 children will develop the syndrome each year in the UK.

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In 9 out of every 10 children, the first seizures will take place in the first year between three to eight months of age. They may happen in clusters or runs rather than singularly. The children may go on to develop learning difficulties as a result of the syndrome.

Earlier studies

A new study published this month shows that CBD transdermal gel may help to reduce seizures and improve children’s quality of life.

The study, Safety and Tolerability of Transdermal Cannabidiol Gel in Children With Developmental and Epileptic Encephalopathies, was conducted in Australia and New Zealand. It involved 40 children with Developmental And Epileptic Encephalopathies (DEE). The authors noted that the DEEs were the most severe type of epilepsy typically beginning in childhood.

The non-randomised, clinical trial involved CBD gel being applied twice a day for six and a half months on children aged three to eighteen. The gel had a CBD content of 125 to 500 mg.

The researchers found that the gel helped in response to facial impaired awareness seizures potentially reducing them to 44.5 percent. It also helped to reduce tonic-clonic seizures where the muscles violently contract by 22.5 percent. Overall, the seizures in 33 participants were reduced by 43.5 percent.

The children also recorded improvements in alertness, alongside the seizure reduction.

Read More: Study on CBD gel shows potentially positive effect seizures

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