Researchers Awarded $3M to Study Cannabinoids


Many people have turned to cannabinoids, such as CBD, to help them deal with health-related issues. In fact, a Gallup poll taken in August 2019 found one in seven Americans say they personally use cannabidiol-based products for pain, anxiety and insomnia.

While there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it can be used to help those who experience these symptoms, little has been done to study its long-term effects. One of the reasons is that up until December 2018, when the Farm Bill was passed, the federal government classified CBD as a Schedule I substance (along with marijuana), making it difficult to study.

Under the Farm Bill, hemp is no longer considered an illegal substance under federal law. However, any cannabis product marketed as having a therapeutic benefit still must be approved by the FDA before it can be sold.

In an effort to better understand the potential for pain relief, nine research centers have been awarded a total of $3 million to investigate the potential pain-relieving properties and mechanisms of actions of the various chemical compounds produced by cannabis, including both minor cannabinoids and terpenes, which are non-psychoactive components of cannabis.

The grants are being awarded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which noted that there is “an urgent need for more effective and safer options” than opioids, which have been linked to addiction and death.

The cannabis plant contains more than 110 cannabinoids and 120 terpenes, but the only compound that’s been studied extensively is THC, which “is limited by its psychoactive effects and abuse potential,” according to NCCIH Deputy Director David Shurtleff, Ph.D.

Cannabinoids are a chemical compound that acts on receptors found on the surface of cells, and terpenes are fragrant essential oils found in a variety of plants

“These new projects will investigate substances from cannabis that don’t have THC’s disadvantages, looking at their basic biological activity and their potential mechanisms of action as pain relievers,” Shurtleff said in a statement.

The following universities will be conducting the research:

  • Boston Children’s Hospital will study how the pain-relieving effects of CBD and other minor cannabinoids may be modulated by the activity of potassium-chloride cotransporter 2 (KCC2), a chloride extruder expressed in most neurons.
  • University of California, San Francisco will explore the effects of minor cannabinoids on inflammatory and neuropathic pain in vitro and in vivo, focusing on the interactions of the cannabinoids with the peripheral receptor called TRPV1 and a cannabinoid receptor.
  • Research Triangle Institute, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina will evaluate purified biosynthesized minor cannabinoids and selected terpenes alone and in planned combinations to determine their potential efficacy as pain relievers against acute thermal, inflammatory, neuropathic, and visceral pain.
  • New York University School of Medicine will use neuroimaging studies and behavioral assessments to investigate the mechanisms of action of CBD in the modulation of chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis in a mouse model.
  • University of Texas, Austin will use a novel method to evolve individual variants of cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) that interact with high affinity with minor cannabinoids and evaluate the new variants in a mouse model of pain.
  • University of Utah, Salt Lake City will use proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) to evaluate changes in brain chemistry in critical pain-processing regions after short-term administration of a cannabis extract enriched in CBD.
  • Emory University, Atlanta will take a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the analgesic effects of terpenes from Humulus lupulus (hops), a plant that is closely related to cannabis and has a very similar terpene profile.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will take on a project that involves synthesizing several classes of rare phytocannabinoids, systematically evaluating their anti-inflammatory potential, and examining the effects of the compounds with the strongest anti-inflammatory potential on the major receptors involved in pain sensation.
  • Temple University, Philadelphia will use rodent models of pain to evaluate the effects of four biologically active components of cannabis that may act synergistically to protect against pain development and to assess the interactions of these four substances with morphine.

It’s important to note that while many states have passed laws legalizing CBD oil in recent years, some are stricter than others. And, many companies continue to test for THC, traces of which may be found in some CBD products.

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