SFU research finds clues to understanding CBD and its medicinal effects

November 23, 2020
Peter Ruben.

By Diane Mar-Nicolle

Cannabis is widely used as a recreational drug but now researchers are discovering new therapeutic uses for it.  A recent study from SFU and the University of London sheds light on how Cannabidiol (CBD), the main non-psychoactive chemical in the Cannabis sativa plant, exerts its medicinal effect to provide relief from pain and certain disorders.

Co-author Peter Ruben, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology at SFU explains that sodium channels conduct electrical signals throughout our nerve, muscles and heart.

“These channels are among the proteins through which some pain medications (such as lidocaine) work to block pain sensations,” he says.  

Ruben, along with recent Ph.D. graduate Reza Ghovanloo and their UK collaborators, led by Bonnie Wallace, used a combination of structural and functional studies to demonstrate how CBD interacts with sodium channels at the molecular level.

“Now we can actually visualize how CBD docks within the sodium channel protein,” he says

Reza Ghovanloo.

CBD is already used in treating some seizure disorders such as Dravet syndrome, and previous research from Ruben has shown it to be promising in mitigating some effects of diabetes-related hyperglycemia.

Ruben stresses that further research is needed, including clinical trials.  With a better understanding of its mechanisms, he says, CBD could be used as a pain medication similar to local anesthetics, like lidocaine, which are used in dentistry and minor surgeries not requiring general anesthesia.

Read the full paper here: