Cannabinoids as Immune System Modulators: Cannabidiol Potential Therapeutic Approaches and Limitations

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“Introduction: Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant Phytocannabinoid in Cannabis extracts. CBD has a binding affinity for several cannabinoid and cannabinoid-associated receptors. Epidiolex (oral CBD solution) has been lately licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of pediatric epileptic seizures. 

Methods: In this review, we discussed the most promising applications of CBD for chronic inflammatory conditions, namely CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects during inflammatory bowel disease, coronavirus disease (antiviral effect), brain pathologies (neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties), as well as CBD immunomodulatory and antitumoral activities in the tumor microenvironment. Special focus was shed on the main therapeutic mechanisms of action of CBD, particularly in the control of the immune system and the endocannabinoid system. 

Results: Findings suggest that CBD is a potent immunomodulatory drug as it has manifested immunosuppressive properties in the context of sterile inflammation (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases), and immunoprotective effects during viral infections (e.g. COVID-19) Similarly, CBD has exhibited a selective response toward cancer types by engaging different targets and signaling pathways. These results are in favor of the primary function of the endocannabinoid system which is homeostatic maintenance. 

Conclusion: The presented evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid system is a prominent target for the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid diseases, viral infections, neurological and psychological pathologies, and cancer. Moreover, the antitumoral activities of CBD have been suggested to be potentially used in combination with chemo- or immunotherapy during cancer. However, clinical results are still lacking, which raises a challenge to apply translational cannabis research to the human immune system.”

A Systemic Review of Medical Cannabinoids Dosing in Human

“Purpose: This systemic review assesses currently available clinical information on which cannabinoids and what range of doses have been used to achieve positive effects in a diversity of medical context.

Methods: The data were collected according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses protocol guidelines. Inclusion criteria were articles that assessed administration of any cannabinoid to any clinical population, reported in the or PubMed databases, that involved a comparison with other treatment or placebo and a result measurement to assess the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the cannabinoid. Exclusion criteria were review or letter; articles not in the English language; not full-text articles; not a clinical trial, case report, case series, open-label trial, or pilot study; administration in animals, in vitro, or in healthy participants; cannabinoids administered in combination with other cannabinoids (except for cannabidiol [CBD] or tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]) or as whole cannabis extracts; no stated concentration; inhalation or smoke as a route of administration; and no results described. The articles were assessed by the risk of bias.

Finding: In total, 1668 articles were recovered, of which 55 studies met the inclusion criteria for 21 diseases. Positive effects were reported in clinical studies: 52% with THC (range, 0.01-0.5 mg/kg/d [0.62-31 mg/d]), 74% with CBD (range, 1-50 mg/kg/d [62-3100 mg/d]), 64% with THC-CBD (mean, 1:1.3 mg/kg/d [ratio, 1:1]), and 100% with tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) (0.2 mg/kg/d).

Implications: THC, CBD, and THCV can regulate activity in several pathologies. New studies of cannabinoids are highly encouraged because each patient is unique and requires a unique cannabinoid medication.”

Industrial Hemp ( Cannabis sativa L.) Inflorescences as Novel Food: The Effect of Different Agronomical Practices on Chemical Profile


“In this study, the effect of several agronomical practices on the chemical composition of hemp inflorescences, a potential novel food that needs to be further studied, was observed. Here, the case study of inflorescences from Ferimon cultivars is discussed and submitted to different agronomical practices (irrigation and fertilizers) in different years, and the inflorescences harvested in different periods were analyzed by a multimethodological approach. Targeted and untargeted methodologies allowed cannabinoids, total phenolic content, metabolite profile and antioxidant activity to be determined. The biomass and inflorescence yields were also reported. The whole data set was submitted to ANOVA-simultaneous component analysis. The statistic results allowed us to observe that irrigation was responsible for the (-)-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) increment. THC, cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), succinate, and fructose resulted as higher in full female flowering than in the period of seed maturity. On the other hand, nitrogen supplementation led to an increase of iso-leucine, valine, and threonine. The obtained results underlined both the potential food application of hemp inflorescences, due to the rich chemical profile, and the strong effect of agronomical practices, mainly irrigation and harvesting, on the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of its metabolite profile.”

The value of real world evidence: The case of medical cannabis

Frontiers - Crunchbase Company Profile & Funding

“Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have long been considered the gold standard of medical evidence. In relation to cannabis based medicinal products (CBMPs), this focus on RCTs has led to very restrictive guidelines in the UK, which are limiting patient access. There is general agreement that RCT evidence in relation to CBPMs is insufficient at present. As well as commercial reasons, a major problem is that RCTs do not lend themselves well to the study of whole plant medicines.

One solution to this challenge is the use of real world evidence (RWE) with patient reported outcomes (PROs) to widen the evidence base. Such data increasingly highlights the positive impact medical cannabis can have on patients’ lives.

This paper outlines the value of this approach which involves the study of interventions and patients longitudinally under medical care. In relation to CBMPs, RWE has a broad range of advantages. These include the study of larger groups of patients, the use of a broader range and ratio of components of CBMPs, and the inclusion of more and rarer medical conditions. Importantly, and in contrast to RCTs, patients with significant comorbidities-and from a wider demographic profile-can also be studied, so providing higher ecological validity and increasing patient numbers, whilst offering significant cost savings. We conclude by outlining 12 key recommendations of the value of RWE in relation to medical cannabis.

We hope that this paper will help policymakers and prescribers understand the importance of RWE in relation to medical cannabis and help them develop approaches to overcome the current situation which is detrimental to patients.”

“Cannabis has an excellent safety profile and is a historically established medicine. We hope that this paper will aid policymakers and prescribers understand the value of RWE in relation to medical cannabis and help them develop approaches to overcome the current situation, which is ultimately harmful to patients, restricting access to medicines that could bring relief.”

A large Australian longitudinal cohort registry demonstrates sustained safety and efficacy of oral medicinal cannabis for at least two years

Lopiccolo & Chang in PLoS ONE – BU Linguistics

“Introduction: Oral medicinal cannabis (MC) has been increasingly prescribed for a wide range of clinical conditions since 2016. Despite an exponential rise in prescriptions and publications, high quality clinical efficacy and safety studies are lacking. The outcomes of a large Australian clinical electronic registry cohort are presented.

Methods: A prospective cannabis-naïve patient cohort prescribed oral MC participated in an ongoing longitudinal registry at a network of specialised clinics. Patient MC dose, safety and validated outcome data were collected regularly over two years and analysed.

Results: 3,961 patients (mean age 56.07 years [SD 19.08], 51.0% female) with multimorbidity (mean diagnoses 5.14 [SD 4.08]) and polypharmacy (mean 6.26 medications [SD 4.61]) were included in this analysis. Clinical indications were for: chronic pain (71.9%), psychiatric (15.4%), neurological (2.1%), and other diagnoses (10.7%). Median total oral daily dose was 10mg for Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 22.5mg for cannabidiol (CBD). A stable dose was observed for over two years. 37.3% experienced treatment related adverse events. These were graded mild (67%), moderate (31%), severe (<2%, n = 23) and two (0.1%) serious adverse events. Statistically significant improvements at a p value of <0.001 across all outcomes were sustained for over two years, including: clinical global impression (CGI-E, +39%: CGI-I, +52%; p<0.001), pain interference and severity (BPI, 26.1% and 22.2%; p<0.001), mental health (DASS-21, depression 24.5%, anxiety 25.5%, stress 27.7%; p<0.001), insomnia (ISI, 35.0%; p<0.001), and health status (RAND SF36: physical function, 34.4%: emotional well-being, 37.3%; p<0.001). Mean number of concomitant medications did not significantly change over 2 years (p = 0.481).

Conclusions: Oral MC was demonstrated to be safe and well-tolerated for a sustained period in a large complex cohort of cannabis-naïve, multimorbid patients with polypharmacy. There was significant improvement (p<0.001) across all measured clinical outcomes over two years. Results are subject to limitations of Real World Data (RWD) for causation and generalisability. Future high quality randomised controlled trials are awaited”

Pharmacological Aspects and Biological Effects of Cannabigerol and Its Synthetic Derivatives


“Cannabigerol (CBG) is a cannabinoid from the plant Cannabis sativa that lacks psychotomimetic effects. Its precursor is the acidic form, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), which is, in turn, a biosynthetic precursor of the compounds cannabidiol (CBD) and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBGA decarboxylation leads to the formation of neutral cannabinoid CBG, through a chemical reaction catalyzed by heat. On the basis of the growing interest in CBG and with the aim of highlighting scientific information on this phytocannabinoid, we focused the content of this article on its pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic characteristics and on its principal pharmacological effects. CBG is metabolized in the liver by the enzyme CYP2J2 to produce hydroxyl and di-oxygenated products. CBG is considered a partial agonist at the CB1 receptor (R) and CB2R, as well as a regulator of endocannabinoid signaling. Potential pharmacological targets for CBG include transient receptor potential (TRP) channels, cyclooxygenase (COX-1 and COX-2) enzymes, cannabinoid, 5-HT1A, and alpha-2 receptors. Pre-clinical findings show that CBG reduces intraocular pressure, possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumoral activities, and has anti-anxiety, neuroprotective, dermatological, and appetite-stimulating effects. Several findings suggest that research on CBG deserves to be deepened, as it could be used, alone or in association, for novel therapeutic approaches for several disorders.”

Nabiximols effect on blood pressure and heart rate in post-stroke patients of a randomized controlled study

Frontiers - Crunchbase Company Profile & Funding

“Background: Cannabinoids may be useful to treat pain, epilepsy and spasticity, although they may bear an increased risk of cardiovascular events. This study aims to evaluate the cardiovascular safety of nabiximols, a cannabis-based drug, in patients with spasticity following stroke, thus presenting an increased cardiovascular risk.

Methods: This is an ancillary study stemming from the SativexStroke trial: a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study aimed at assessing the effect of nabiximols on post-stroke spasticity. Patients were treated with nabiximols oromucosal spray or placebo and assessed before and after two phases of 1-month duration each. Only the phase with the active treatment was considered for each patient who completed the study. The average values of blood pressure (diastolic, systolic, differential) and heart rate from the first 5 days of the phase (lowest nabiximols dosage) were compared to the average values recorded during the last 5 days at the end of the phase (highest nabiximols dosage). Baseline comparisons between gender, stroke type and affected side and correlation between age and blood pressure and heart rate were performed. The study was registered with the EudraCT number 2016-001034-10.

Results: Thirty-four patients completed the study and were included in the analysis. Thirty-one were taking antihypertensive drugs and, among these, 12 were taking beta-blockers. During the study, no arrhythmic events were recorded, blood pressure and heart rate did not show pathological fluctuations, and no cardiovascular or cerebrovascular events occurred. At baseline blood pressure and heart rate were comparable concerning gender, stroke type and affected side. A significant direct correlation emerged between differential blood pressure and age and an inverse correlation between diastolic blood pressure and age. No correlation emerged between systolic blood pressure or heart rate and age. Blood pressure and heart rate did not change during nabiximols treatment compared to the baseline condition.

Conclusion: This ancillary study adds evidence that, in patients who already underwent a cerebrovascular accident, nabiximols does not determine significant blood pressure and heart rate variation or cardiovascular complications. These data support the cardiovascular safety of nabiximols, encouraging more extensive studies involving cannabinoids characterized by slow absorption rates.”

“In conclusion, an interesting result of this pilot study is the good cardiovascular safety profile of nabiximols in patients with stroke. In these patients, the possible beneficial effect of cannabinoids, such as delaying atherosclerotic progression and inflammation, may deserve further investigation. Furthermore, because of the rapidly changing landscape of cannabis laws and marijuana use in western countries, there is a pressing need for refined policy, education of both clinicians and the public, and new research. Carefully designed, prospective, short- and long-term studies are needed to obtain conclusive data on the safety and efficacy of cannabinoid drugs.”

Foodomics reveals anti-obesity properties of cannabinoids from hemp oil

“Scope: Molecular networking (MN) analysis intends to provide chemical insight of untargeted mass spectrometry (MS) data to the user’s underlying biological questions. Foodomics is the study of chemical compounds in food using advanced omics methods. In this study, we developed an MS-MN-based foodomics approach to investigate the composition and anti-obesity activity of cannabinoids in hemp oil.

Methods and results: A total of 16 cannabinoids were determined in optimized microwave pretreatment of hemp oil using the developed approach. Untargeted metabolomics analysis revealed that cannabinoid extract (CE) and its major constituent (cannabidiol, CBD), could alleviate high glucose-induced increases in lipids and carbohydrates, and decreases in amino acid and nucleic acid. Moreover, CE and CBD were also found to suppress the expression levels of mdt-15, sbp-1, fat-5, fat-6, fat-7, daf-2, and elevate the expression level of daf-1,daf-7, daf-16, sod-3, gst-4, lipl-4, resulting in the decrease of lipid synthesis and the enhance of kinetism. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) uncovered strong associations between specific metabolic alterations and gene expression levels.

Conclusion: These findings from this exploratory study offered a new insight into the roles of cannabinoids in the treatment of obesity and related complications.”

Medical Cannabinoids as Treatment for Hypophosphatasia-Related Symptoms

Karger Publishers – ScienceOpen

“Background: Hypophosphatasia (HPP) is a rare congenital disease caused by a mutation affecting tissue non-specific alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme involved in phosphate metabolism. The clinical manifestation usually includes bone-mineralization disorders, neurological symptoms, and persistent muscle pain.

Case report: This case involves a woman in her sixties of Central European descent who suffers from life-long chronic pain and muscle weakness due to hypophosphatasia and concomitant degenerative changes of the lumbar spine. The patient is physically impaired and limited in her ability to walk as a result. HPP-specific and guideline-based multimodal pain management including enzyme replacement therapy with asfotase alfa, opioids, invasive orthopedic and neurosurgical procedures, long-term physiotherapy, and psychotherapy did not yield sufficient treatment results. The average pain was given as 8.5 on a numerical rating scale (NRS, 0-10) for the last 3 years. Treatment with a cannabidiol-predominant, full-spectrum, prescription cannabis extract led to a clinically meaningful pain reduction to 2.5/10 NRS, a discontinuation of opioids, and a recent resumption of employment as a physician.

Conclusion: A more widespread consideration of medical cannabinoids in the treatment of complex chronic pain is proposed. Cannabinoids may pose a particularly potent treatment option for HPP-related symptoms and inflammation due to their known anti-inflammatory properties.”

Virtual Screening and In Vitro Experiments Highlight Cannabidiol as a Drug-like Phosphodiesterase 9 Inhibitor

“The growing interest on the therapeutic potential against neurodegeneration of Cannabis sativa extracts, and of phytocannabinoids in particular, is paralleled by a limited understanding of the undergoing biochemical pathways in which these natural compounds may be involved. Computational tools are nowadays commonly enrolled in the drug discovery workflow and can guide the investigation of macromolecular targets for such molecules. In this contribution, in silico techniques have been applied to the study of C. sativa constituents at various extents, and a total of 7 phytocannabinoids and 4 terpenes were considered. On the side of ligand-based virtual screening, physico-chemical descriptors were computed and evaluated, highlighting the phytocannabinoids possessing suitable drug-like properties to potentially target the central nervous system. Our previous findings and literature data prompted us to investigate the interaction of these molecules with phosphodiesterases (PDEs), a family of enzymes being studied for the development of therapeutic agents against neurodegeneration. Among the compounds, structure-based techniques such as docking and molecular dynamics (MD), highlighted cannabidiol (CBD) as a potential and selective PDE9 ligand, since a promising calculated binding energy value (-9.1 kcal/mol) and a stable interaction in the MD simulation timeframe were predicted. Additionally, PDE9 inhibition assay confirmed the computational results, and showed that CBD inhibits the enzyme in the nanomolar range in vitro, paving the way for further development of this phytocannabinoid as a therapeutic option against neurodegeneration.”