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Marijuana drug at GRU works differently

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Georgia Regents Uni­ver­sity and the state of Georgia have worked for months to land a marijuana-derived drug clinical trial for children with difficult seizure disorders. How the drug actually works to limit seizures is still being worked out.

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Dr. Geoffrey W. Guy, founder and chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, speaks about cannabidiol oil during a presentation at Lee Auditorium at Georgia Regents University.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Dr. Geoffrey W. Guy, founder and chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, speaks about cannabidiol oil during a presentation at Lee Auditorium at Georgia Regents University.

Gov. Nathan Deal announced last week that GRU and other sites in Georgia would host clinical drug trials for Epidiolex, a drug made by GW Pharmaceuticals of London. The company’s chairman and founder, Dr. Geoffrey W. Guy, visited GRU last week to talk about GW’s research into Epidiolex, which is a purified version of cannabidiol oil.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of about 70 active ingredients that have been isolated from the cannabis sativa plant that the company has specially bred to produce high levels of the plant chemical and to eliminate the other well-known marijuana chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. That is the psychoactive part of the plant that produces the “high” from smoking marijuana; CBD actually blocks its effects.

Both THC and CBD are anticonvulsants, but THC interferes with brain development in children, which is why the company worked for 10 years to breed THC out of its plants, Guy said.

Where THC appears to activate certain receptors on cells in the brain, CBD blocks those receptors, said Dr. Jimok Kim, an assistant professor in GRU’s Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine.

CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory and appears to tamp down the excitability of neurons and decrease the duration of epilepsy seizures, Guy said.

Exactly how this happens is unknown, Kim said.

“Both clinical studies and also basic research are being done, but the exact mechanisms of anti-epilepsy (effect) is not quite known yet,” he said.

CBD appears to stimulate a natural system called the endocannbinoid system that appears to help govern the excitability of neurons, Guy said. CBD appears to be able to prolong the duration of the cannabinoids the body produces, which are normally degraded quickly, Kim said,

One way it affects these neurons might be through the traffic of calcium in and out of the cell. Calcium can induce neurotransmitter release and increases the excitability of neurons, and CBD can block up calcium channels into those cells, Kim said.

“Because CBD blocks calcium channels, it could be one of the mechanisms of anti-epilepsy (effect) of CBD,” he said.

And it does it very well, Guy said.

“Cannabidiol is probably one of the most potent modulators of intracellular calcium,” he said. CBD also seems to avoid the motor and behavioral impairment that accompany many current epilepsy drugs, Guy said.

“That’s why people think CBD is promising because CBD has no psychoactive side effects,” Kim said.

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 07/12/14 - 06:41 pm
First Paragraph

If they already knew how the substance works to limit seizures, then it wouldn't be a trial, now would it?

Bizkit 07/12/14 - 09:57 pm
The article is confusing .

The article is confusing . CBD alters intracellular calcium- increasing in some cells , and decreasing in others. It can induce apoptosis in microglia. It is unknown by what mechanism it alters calcium in different cell types. It increases calcium in hippocampus neurons., and it may alter L type calcium channels. It can alter mitochondria too.

oldredneckman96 07/13/14 - 09:10 am
Stoners vs. real medicine

Good to see those actual clinical trials are being conducted to study this. We have a great medical system in this country from the CDC to the FDA the AMA and the FTC to and all the medical schools produce the safest and most economical drugs in the world. To watch other States open up pot houses in converted gas stations and call that “medical pot” is so sad on so many levels. We can all see that pot will stop a stoner from reacting to most anything so for a concentrated version to be able to control seizures is reasonable. We must ensure the safety of the children we use these drugs on and that means real medical procedures with real prescriptions, not a “recommendation” to toke up.

Nicoles Naturals LLC
Nicoles Naturals LLC 07/13/14 - 12:03 pm
CBD is already legal from Hemp

It's sad that lawmakers have no clue that you can get CBD from legal hemp products now. GW Pharma has done GREAT things to advance cannabis science - but since they are a pharma company, they have no investment in touting the availability of CBD NOW. Hemp is a 'cousin' of marijuana, but is legal because it's levels of THC are naturally low and acceptable by the feds. Hemp CBD is identical to marijuana CBD. The Hemp CBD extraction process is a new industry (1+ years), so it is still relatively unknown, but growing FAST. You do NOT have to move to Colorado to get CBD. You can Google 'CBD Oil from Hemp' and see hundreds of products available for purchase!

corgimom 07/13/14 - 03:30 pm
I don't believe that I would

I don't believe that I would give a very sick child something that hadn't been approved by the FDA, or that wasn't given under the care and supervision of a doctor, but that's just me.

Sweet son
Sweet son 07/13/14 - 03:47 pm
Don't care anything about the first three comments although they

have merit. I just hope whatever the outcome this study gives a child some semblance of a normal life. I have seen mothers who are just hanging on to see if they are chosen to participate and I hope they all are but I know that is a pipe dream. Good luck to all!

AutumnLeaves 07/14/14 - 04:13 pm
It should be legalized just

Marijuana should be legalized just like alcohol, regulated, quality-controlled, graded, and taxed! But if you think it is okay for recreational use under any conditions, you might better do some research. I rarely drink alcohol, but I'm never going to smoke marijuana, even based on the study I did back in high school. I've seen what it has done to people I know. Based on what I've observed over time, I don't want anyone that smokes pot to be my doctor, my lawyer, my pastor, or in my household. I would like to see the hemp plant (also a variety of cannabis) grown by American Indians for the many products that can be made from it. They have fought a legal battle for this for decades. It is a complicated matter, but the present situation is inconsistent throughout the states.

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