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Finally, a double-blind, crossover, placebo-controlled trial was performed in which Sativex was administered (approximate average dose: 20 mg of THC and 20 mg of CBD per day) to 24 HD patients for two 12-week treatment periods, separated by a 4-week washout period (Lopez-Sendon Moreno et al., 2016). The Sativex was safe and well tolerated, but no significant effects were observed either in the motor, cognitive, behavioural and functional parameters or in the biomarkers assessed.
Manuel Guzmán is Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Complutense University of Madrid, member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Pharmacy, and member of the Board of Directors of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines. His research focuses on the study of the mechanism of action and therapeutic properties of cannabinoids, especially in the nervous system. This work has given rise to more than one hundred publications in specialized international journals, as well as to several international patents on the possible therapeutic applications of cannabinoids as anticancer and neuroprotective drugs. He routinely collaborates with scientific reviewing and funding agencies.
Blázquez C et al. (2015) The CB1 cannabinoid receptor signals striatal neuroprotection via a PI3K/Akt/mTORC1/BDNF pathway. Cell Death Differ 22:1618-1629.
Palazuelos J et al. (2009) Microglial CB2 cannabinoid receptors are neuroprotective in Huntington’s disease excitotoxicity. Brain 132:3152-3164.
However despite being globally safe and well tolerated, cannabinoids have not as yet shown any neuroprotective activity in humans. This discrepancy between the basic and clinical research may be due to factors such as the substantial biological differences between the animal models and human pathology or to inadequate design of the clinical trials, which have to date been geared towards assessing safety more than effectiveness. It therefore seems logical to suggest that future clinical trials should be conducted in earlier stages of HD with longer periods of treatment with cannabinoids. It might also be useful to know the pattern of cannabis use by HD patients and to have some biomarkers related to CB1R activity during the development of HD.
Researchers who have collaborated with the Universit of Eastern Piedmont (Italy), focused on the effects of a cannabis compound called cannabigerol, from there they were able to develop new types such as VCE-003.2, where they observed the results both in vitro and in mice. In both cases, the compound exerted an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effect. In addition, the molecule increased the ability to promote the survival of the affected neuronal precursors, so it is possible that it could repair neurons.
Researchers have also discovered that CBD helps neurons with their antioxidant properties. Although CBD and THC are almost identical molecules, the properties of CBD allow it to be a powerful antioxidant, but also safe and tolerable in high doses to humans.
One of the less well known neurodegenerative diseases is Huntington’s disease. Through a mutated protein it attacks the cells of the brain. It is a hereditary disease, which usually appears in people aged around 35-45 years.
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About five people in every 100,000 suffer from the disease, which makes it a rare illness since it only affects a small percentage of the population. Currently, there is no cure for Huntington’s disease so researchers around the world are looking for treatments and therapies to fight this disease.
Although medical cannabis cannot cure this condition, cannabinoid therapy may improve some of the symptoms. The team at the University of Cordoba (UCO) together with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and the Cordova company VivaCell Biotechnology, have developed a new cannabinoid compound. After several trials, they have been able to test the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids in animals with Huntington’s disease, this has opened the door to the development of an effective drug for the patients that need it.
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