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SFU researchers discover one way cannabis might alleviate pain and seizures

September 28, 2018
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Contact: Wan Yee Lok, Communications & Marketing, (778) 782-5151, wan_yee_lok@sfu.ca

A new study by SFU Faculty of Science researchers Reza Ghovanloo and Peter Ruben, along with scientists at Xenon Pharmaceuticals, reveals a possible physiological mechanism by which cannabis may alleviate pain and seizures. 

Pain and seizure signals are transmitted electrically within human nerves, much like wires in power cords. As the first study of its kind, the researchers looked at some of the proteins which control electrical activity in human nerves, and discovered that cannabidiol (CBD)–the primary non-psychotropic cannabis component–affects how the proteins function. 

"CBD inhibits the activity of these proteins, causes them to be less likely to conduct an electrical signal like pain," says Ruben. "The interaction between CBD and the proteins in nerves helps explain how cannabis may diminish pain and control seizures."

Ruben says the findings will open doors to future research on how cannabis can be used medically and help patients who suffer from incurable diseases like Dravet syndrome, a type of epilepsy with seizures that are often triggered by hot temperatures or fever in young children. 

The study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, was conducted in partnership with Xenon Pharmaceuticals and Agrima Botanicals.