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Five new cannabis research studies

We delve into some of the latest developments in cannabis science



latest cannabis research

As scientific understanding of cannabis continues to grow, we’ve rounded up some of the latest research from across the globe.

Cannabis is a rapidly evolving area of research, that up until recent years has been off-limits to most scientists.

But as more parts of the world move towards legalising the drug for medicinal and recreational use, scientific understanding is growing faster than ever.

Get up to speed with the latest developments in medical cannabis with these five high-profile studies from the past two weeks.

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Researchers develop enhanced cannabis strain with 20 per cent more THC

Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers claim to have successfully engineered a cannabis plant with higher levels of THC and other medically-important substances.

The researchers successfully increased the levels of THC, the primary psychoactive component in cannabis, by nearly 17 per cent, as well as the level of CBG (cannabigerol), often referred to as “the mother of all cannabinoids,” by nearly 25 per cent.

The researchers in the laboratory of Professor Alexander Vainstein at the university also increased the ratio of terpenes by 20-30 per cent.

Vainstein, said: “We developed an innovative technology based on infection with an engineered virus to facilitate chemical reactions that increase the quantities of desired substances. In collaboration with Mariana Bioscience Ltd., we examined the infected plants and found that the levels of the substances in question had indeed risen.”

This is the first time that researchers have succeeded in performing such a feat with cannabis plants.

Until now, there was no method to tailor strains to produce certain cannabis substances or alter the ratio between them.

According to Vainstein, “these study results will be valuable both to industry—to increase the yield of active substances, and to medical researcher—to cultivate and develop new strains for medical cannabis users.”

More extensive experiments with the engineered plant are currently underway and should be available to cannabis industry leaders and medical research in the next few months.

Phase II trial for potential dementia treatment completed

MGC Pharma has announced results from its clinical trial, stating that its cannabis-based oral spray CogniCann, has demonstrated the ability to inhibit the deterioration in the behaviour of patients with dementia.

The European based bio-pharma company carried out the trial in conjunction with the University of Notre Dame in Western Australia.

The trial assessed both the safety profile and the efficacy of CogniCann against a placebo and involved 22 participants taking a six-week treatment course with CogniCann, before switching to a six-week course of placebo, with a two-week ‘washout’ period.

The results showed that after 44 days, patients in the placebo group experienced a deterioration in their condition, compared with the stable neuropsychiatric profile of those patients treated with CogniCann.

Aggressive behaviour is one of the most serious of the disturbances experienced by dementia patients, and is a common cause for psychiatric referral, admission to hospital and drug treatment.

MGC Pharma has stated that the trial results showed that the treatment group’s Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory Aggressive scale improved by 13 per cent, compared with the placebo group which improved by four per cent.

The company says this finding is important as it indicates not only improvement in the health status of the patients, but also the improved quality of life of the families and caregivers that are taking care of dementia patients.

Could consuming cannabis make you a nicer person?

A recent study, led by researchers at the The University of New Mexico, showed that healthy young adults who had recently been exposed to cannabis, exhibited higher levels of prosocial behaviours and heightened sense of empathy than those who had not.

This is among the first studies to show psychosocial, non-clinical benefits of cannabis use among healthy young adults.

Investigators analysed the psychological functioning of healthy college students with varying levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their urine.

Compared to non-users, young adults with recent exposure to cannabis scored significantly higher on standardised measurements of prosocial behaviours, empathy, and moral decision-making founded on principles of ensuring harmlessness and sense of fairness.

“Most investigations on the effects of using cannabis have focused on either negative consequences of cannabis addiction or on the physical health effects of cannabis use,” said lead investigator and Assistant Professor Jacob Miguel Vigil, UNM Department of Psychology.

“Almost no formal scientific attention has been devoted to understanding other psychological and behavioural effects of consuming the plant, despite it being so widely used throughout human history.”

Cannabis products associated with short-term chronic pain improvements

A review of 25 trials and studies assessing cannabinoids has found that oral synthetic cannabis products with high THC-to-CBD ratios and extracted cannabis products with similar ratios were associated with moderate, short-term chronic pain improvements.

Researchers from Oregon Health & Science University reviewed 18 randomised, placebo-controlled trials, comprising 1,740 participants and 7 cohort studies, comprising 13,095 participants, to evaluate the benefits and harms of cannabinoids for chronic pain.

They found that synthetic products with high THC-to-CBD ratios were associated with moderate improvement in pain severity and response but were also associated with an increased risk for sedation and dizziness.

The researchers determined that evidence for whole-plant products, CBD and other cannabinoids was limited by “serious imprecision”, “lack of ability to assess consistency” and methodological limitations.

The findings are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Residents of US states that legalise recreational cannabis more likely to consume

A new study of more than 20,000 Americans published in the scientific journal Addiction has found that once a state legalises recreational cannabis, residents are more likely to start using the drug.

The study compared four US states with legalised recreational cannabis (California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine) with states that had not.

This study is groundbreaking in several ways, the scientists said.

Notably, it is the first study to estimate the association between recreational cannabis laws and individual-level changes in cannabis use among a nationally representative longitudinal cohort in the US. The study also has a much larger sample size than similar longitudinal studies.

Professor Yuyan Shi of Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at University of California San Diego, the Principal Investigator of this study, says: “Our findings provide useful information to policymakers and public health practitioners interested in understanding the consequences of legalising recreational cannabis.”

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