Synthetic cannabinoid for epilepsy?

Variant of the cannabis ingredient works similarly well as the natural example

Especially the cannabis ingredient CBD is known for its medicinal properties. © Aleksandr Kravtsov / istock
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Alternative to the plant extract: A synthetic version of the cannabis ingredient cannabidiol (CBD) seems to work just as well against epileptic seizures as its natural counterpart. This now suggests a first study with rats. The therapeutic use of this remedy would have decisive advantages over the plant extract - among other things, because it is legally unproblematic and easy to produce.

The intoxicant cannabis is increasingly known for its medicinal effects: Especially the cannabis hemp ingredient cannabidiol (CBD) accumulates in the body to specific receptors and can in this way, among other things, reduce pain and spasms, as studies show. These effects are helpful, for example, for patients with cancer, but also epilepsy.

The therapeutic use of the substance, however, is not readily possible everywhere: As part of an illegal drug, its use is still limited in many countries. In addition, the cultivation of cannabis is energy intensive and can harm the environment. In addition, the CBD must be isolated in complex processes from the plant if it is to be used without its intoxicating companion.

Chemical structures of THC, plant CBD and the synthetic H2CBD. © Mascal laboratory / UC Davis

Synthetic alternative

To circumvent these problems, researchers are now increasingly experimenting with synthetic variants. For example, Mark Mascal from the University of California at Davis and his colleagues: They have developed a simple method to produce 8, 9-dihydrocannabidiol (H2CBD) from commercially available and purely synthetic source chemicals.

This substance is a molecule with a natural CBD-like structure. The key differences: H2CBD does not occur in the hemp plant and is therefore not subject to any legal restrictions. In addition, plant cultivation is not necessary for the production of the agent. And: "Unlike CBD, H2CBD has no way of converting the compound into the intoxicating tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), " explains Mascal. display

As effective as the prototype

As far as the benefits yet can the therapeutic effect of the substance match that of the model? The scientists have now tested this using the example of epilepsy. In their study, they investigated in 60 male rats whether the synthetic analogue works as effectively against epileptic seizures as a herbal CBD extract, and its usefulness for the treatment of epilepsy patients already well occupied.

The results showed that in fact the H2CBD achieved similar results in animal experiments as its natural counterpart. As the researchers report, the substance not only reduced the number of seizures comparable to real CBD. It also mitigated the strength of individual seizures in a similar way. "H2CBD could thus prove to be a safer alternative for cannabis extracts, " they explain.

In the future, Mascal and his colleagues want to further explore the potential of their synthetic CBD version to be able to conduct clinical trials as soon as possible. A provisional patent for H2CBD as an antiepileptic drug has already been applied for by his university. (Scientific Reports, 2019; doi: 10.1038 / s41598-019-44056-y)

Source: University of California Davis

- Daniel Albat