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Synthetic Cannabidiol Shown to Reduce Seizures

Epilepsy graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

29 May 2019. A synthetic form of cannabidiol, or CBD, a derivative of cannabis, is shown in tests with lab rats to reduce the occurrence of seizures from epilepsy. Findings from research by a team at University of California in Davis and University of Reading in the U.K. appear in the 23 May issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder where nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing seizures with symptoms ranging from blank stares to tingling sensations to loss of consciousness. World Health Organization estimates some 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, where in many cultures people with the condition face stigma and discrimination. While epilepsy can be treated in most cases, WHO says as many as 30 percent of episodes do not respond to treatment.

Researchers led by chemistry professor Mark Mascal at UC-Davis are seeking more accessible options than naturally derived CBD for treating epilepsy. The Food and Drug Administration approved last year a CBD-based treatment for a rare forms of epilepsy, and while CBD itself does not cause an emotional high, cannabis and its derivatives are still controlled substances in most states. In addition, CBD can be converted into tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, an intoxicating cannabis derivative, which limits research into its health effects.

Researchers led by Mascal developed a synthetic form of CBD called 8,9-Dihydrocannabidiol or H2CBD, with a chemical structure similar to CBD but with added carbon bonds that prevent its conversion to THC. The team says H2CBD can be made inexpensively from commercially-available materials, and despite its similarity to CBD, H2CBD is not directly derived from cannabis and thus is not subject to the same controls.

“It’s a much safer drug than CBD, with no abuse potential and doesn’t require the cultivation of hemp,” says Mascal in a university statement. And he adds, “Unlike CBD, there is no way to convert H2CBD to intoxicating THC.”

Mascal and colleagues tested H2CBD in lab rats induced with epilepsy-like seizures with the chemical pentylenetetrazole, a known nervous system convulsant substance. The animals were randomly assigned to receive H2CBD in an ethanol solution, CBD in ethanol, or plain ethanol.

The results show fewer animals exhibiting seizures among recipients of H2CBD and CBD than plain ethanol, with the numbers of seizures among H2CBD recipients similar to those receiving CBD. Moreover, the higher the dose of H2CBD or CBD, the fewer the seizures reported. Post-mortem examinations of the rats also show comparable concentrations of H2CBD and CBD in their blood and tissue.

The researchers plan to continue development of H2CBD, including more tests with animals. Mascal founded last year the company Syncanica to commercialize synthetic cannabinoid compounds as therapies, and serves as its CEO. The university also filed a provisional patent for H2CBD as an anti-seizure treatment.

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