Communications - News at Medicine - October 2019 - What is it about cannabis?


What is it about cannabis?
October 11, 2019
Dr. Curtis French is hoping some new funding will help figure out which molecules in cannabis plants help reduce seizures.
 
Dr. French’s research recently received a boost of $25,000 from Epilepsy NL, an organization serving and representing more than 10,000 men, women, children and their families in Newfoundland and Labrador, who are living with epilepsy.
 
Cannabis, which contains hundreds of molecules that may help manage seizures, has been used to treat the condition for centuries but not much research has been done on its effectiveness.
 
Many people living with epilepsy already use cannabis products, often in combination with prescribed medications. Different strains of cannabis can have varying levels of success. Dr. French’s work will help identify which compounds in cannabis have the greatest anti-seizure properties therefore identifying the cannabis strains that are enriched in these compounds to provide the best benefit for patients.
 
Dr. French’s lab will test at least eight molecules found in the plants, including Cannabidiol CBD which has shown promise, for anti-epileptic properties.
 
Using zebrafish, Dr. French and his team will induce seizures in these animals that mimic those of patients (zebrafish are very similar to humans genetically; sharing more 70 per cent of our genes).
 
“We can create hundreds, even thousands of these fish on a given day, allowing us to test a large number of drugs to determine if they can have a benefit such as reducing the rate or severity of seizure activity,” Dr. French explains. “Because we can house large numbers of zebrafish at low cost, we can very quickly screen compounds isolated from cannabis plants to test their potential benefits.”
 
With the Epilepsy NL grant, Dr. French will work with cannabis companies in Newfoundland and hire new graduate students for his lab. “This grant is a major asset for my laboratory that aims to use zebrafish to find treatments for human diseases.”