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CiiTECH: Breaking new ground in cannabis research

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CiiTECH is leading the way in cannabis research

A joint venture between cannabis research company CiiTECH and top scientists in Israel is leading the way in diabetes and weight-loss studies. Cannabis Health speaks to CEO and founder Clifton Flack to find out more.

In May 2020 CiiTECH labs announced that it had developed a patent-pending breakthrough technology. Developed together with leading metabolic researcher Dr Yossi Tam and the Hebrew University in Israel, the groundbreaking cannabis formula has the potential to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), obesity and a number of other metabolic disorders.

Having co-founded iCAN Israel-Cannabis and together with his team brought the world CannaTech, we spoke to Clifton Flack about his latest venture.

CH: Tell us about your partnership with Dr Tam and the Hebrew University?

Clifton: Working with Dr Tam and ‘Yissum’ the tech transfer arm of the Hebrew University, CiiTECH Labs is leveraging the full potential of Israel’s cutting-edge cannabis innovation. Dr Tam is head of the Obesity and Metabolism Laboratory and his current focus is on uncovering the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in the pathogenesis of obesity and its metabolic complications, with CBD as a prospect for the development of an effective maintenance therapy. Since its inception in 1964, Yissum has registered more than 10,000 patents covering 3,000 inventions and licensed over 950 technologies, with global business partners including companies such as Novartis, Merck, Intel and Google.

Why is the patent-pending technology significant?

Our patent-pending technology aims to explore the therapeutic potential of CBD in combination with additional cannabinoids in reversing the accumulation of fat thus providing the means for treating or preventing type 2 Diabetes and NAFLD.

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What has your research found so far?

Through CiiTECH’s past and current clinical studies, researchers have identified the cell genes that influence the uptake of fat and secured a provisional patent for the technology of a unique cannabinoid formulation to potentially treat obesity, diabetes and their causes in NAFLD. Recent findings from CiiTECH Labs have revealed the significant role of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system in the development of NAFLD via the regulation of both CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Why is this research important now?

Obesity is reaching epic proportions in Western societies, with more than one-third of US adults now considered to be obese. It has been described as a catalyst for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and NAFLD. According to the NHS, one in every three people in the UK has early stages of NAFLD. If left untreated, it can lead to liver damage, scarring, and cirrhosis and patients are at a much higher risk of developing more serious conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Why did you choose Israel to carry out this pioneering work?

Israel has been at the forefront of cannabis research for over 50 years and this gold-label institution has the richest history of cannabis breakthroughs and cannabinoid therapy patents in the world. While the rest of the world was preoccupied with prohibition and propaganda, Professor Raphael Mechoulam and his team of scientists at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, were working to unlock secrets of the cannabis plant. Prof Mechoulam was the first person to study the endocannabinoid system and isolate the compounds THC and CBD.

READ MORE  PhD student awarded for research on pain-relieving effects of CBD

After finding success as a global cannabis pioneer why did you turn your attention to the UK?

After a number of years building the global cannabis community, I saw a huge opportunity in my home country, the UK, where an unregulated CBD industry had begun to explode. With many brands making unsubstantiated claims and mislabeling their products, I recognised the need for consumers to be protected – and the key to this is research. CiiTECH developed a proprietary CBD brand PROVACAN, which has formed a number of joint ventures to bring the best of CBD and science to the UK. It continually works with leading formulators and innovators to bring to market the most efficient and cost-effective products and has seen the formation of CiiTECH’s other CBD brands IMPACT and HUGG.

How are you preparing for the UK’s Food Standards Authority’s (FSA) Novel Food regulations coming into force at the end of March next year?

The team has taken the necessary steps to ensure we are ready for the new regulations to take effect. We have been working closely with all industry stakeholders to ensure that all our brands adhere to the guidance set forth by the FSA and Novel foods. Our products comply 100 percent with the stringent EU and UK agricultural directives and we expect all our brands to be ready when the new regulations come into effect next year.

What impact do you think the introduction of the regulations will have on the industry?

The new regulations will clean up the market, getting rid of any products that do not comply with new regulations. This will make all CBD users more confident in what they are buying with more clarity and precise labelling.

READ MORE  Scientists explore potential of synthetic CBD for pain management

What does the future hold for CiiTECH?

It is a very exciting time at CiiTECH as we continue to develop new patents, formulations and brands that meet the growing needs of niche markets around the world. Our global expansion tells us that we are doing something right and that our products are filling in a market that is lacking something that consumers need. Although the landscape will likely look very different this time next year, with the technology, research and expertise we have, CiiTECH is set to be at the forefront of this ever-changing industry

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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Dravet Syndrome: 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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Industry

New course offers expert advice on medical cannabis from doctors and patients

The Sativa Learning course includes insight from doctors and patients

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A new online course on prescribing medical cannabis will offer a detailed insight into the industry from both clinicians and patients. Cannabis Health speaks to course creator and CEO Ryan McCreanor.

Sativa Learning and the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (MCCS) have partnered to offer a new course on the prescribing of medical cannabis in the UK.

It will cover a comprehensive list of topics around cannabis as a medicine such as clinical evidence for medical cannabis, the practicalities of prescribing and side effects and contraindications.

The course, which will run online only, will also offer a variety of clinical and patient stories on a select list of conditions such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, paediatric epilepsy, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Course: An advert for Always Pure Organics

Sativa Learning has already launched a successful online CBD course covering everything from the science behind the cannabinoid to UK regulations.

Ryan got the idea following his return from Canada to his hometown of Northern Ireland where he struggled to find decent quality CBD products. He started his career as a toxicology scientist before working for the Canadian government as an educator and trainer post legalisation in 2018.

“This was a way to bring a level of legitimacy to the industry by developing an accredited expert-led cannabis course,” said Ryan.

“The idea for the platform is that we want to provide education for all avenues of the cannabis industry. The CBD industry was a good place to start as I had a good level of knowledge myself so I put together a lot of the educational content myself.”

He continued: “I wanted to bring in real experts so we partnered with Professor Barnes and Hannah Deacon. All future courses will be CPD-credited. A lot of medical professionals will have to gain a certain amount of CPD points per year so they can take our course and feel comfortable that it is managed to a high started of further learning.”

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As well as Hannah Deacon and Prof Barnes, the course also includes expert panels from Dr Dani Gordon who will speak about cannabis and oncology. Other classes will include Dr Elie Okirie speaking about epilepsy and Dr Evan Lewis on paediatric epilepsy. When it comes to the syllabus, the MCCS has put together the content for the cannabis course.

Course: The two creators of the cannabis course standing next to each other looking into the camera

Sativa Learning founder, Ryan McCreanor and Professor Mike Barnes

Ryan explained that they selected the conditions they included carefully to give a broad overview of common conditions.

He said: “We picked out 10 of the most common conditions for which cannabis is prescribed. We have fibromyalgia, chronic pain, cancer pain and women’s health issues. The doctors explain how they prescribe for that condition and have a number of patients who speak on camera about their experience.”

 

Expert-led courses

When it comes to panel discussions, courses or expert lead videos, it can often feel as if patients are forgotten. Ryan highlighted that this is a key part of the course.

“Not only do we have the doctors educating on cannabis but we have a follow-up with a patient talking about their experience,” he said.

“They discuss what life was like for them before medical cannabis, what their prescription is like and how this changed things for them.

“The industry should be all about the patients so we want to make sure that their voices are heard.”

The course will be fully online, with an option to learn as you go and break and save your progress whenever you are ready.  At the end of the course, there will be an exam that will give you a presentation upon a passing grade. The exam is part of the CPD accreditation.

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Ryan added: “Some people have blasted through our CBD course in one day where they just sit down and get through it all which can take up to six hours depending on your existing level of knowledge. This course is going to be quite a bit longer but you can do it all in one day or you could do a few hours a night for six months.”

The platform will be available for anyone who wants to learn about cannabis although Ryan explained that it may be more suited towards industry professionals.

He concluded: “There are no barriers to entry. The course is going to be available for whoever wants to learn about cannabis medicine. The language we use is heavily targeted towards the medical professionals as it is aimed at that audience to teach medical professionals about the basics of prescribing.”

Access the course here

Read more: The importance of peer to peer learning in medical cannabis education

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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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Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

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