Analgesic effect of the synthetic cannabinoid CT-3 on chronic neuropathic pain: a randomized controlled trial.

“1′,1’dimethylheptyl-Delta8-tetrahydrocannabinol-11-oic acid (CT-3), a potent analog of THC-11-oic acid, produces marked antiallodynic and analgesic effects in animals without evoking the typical effects described in models of cannabinoids. Therefore, CT-3 may be an effective analgesic for poorly controlled resistant neuropathic pain.”


“OBJECTIVE: To examine the analgesic efficacy and safety of CT-3 in chronic neuropathic pain in humans.”


“CONCLUSIONS: In this preliminary study, CT-3 was effective in reducing chronic neuropathic pain compared with placebo. No major adverse effects were observed.”

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High hopes for new marijuana drug


“Researchers have developed a synthetic compound which gives the benefits of marijuana without the high.

US researchers are developing a marijuana-derived synthetic compound to relieve pain and inflammation without the mood-altering side effects associated with other marijuana based drugs.

Professor Sumner Burstein, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, presented his team’s findings at last week’s national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

He is hopeful about the potential of the synthetic compound to treat a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis.

The synthetic compound is called ajulemic acid, and has a formula based on that of THC. It has already produced encouraging results in animal studies of pain and inflammation, and is currently being tested on humans.

Exactly how ajulemic acid works is still under investigation but it appears to suppress chemical mediators, such as prostaglandins and cytokines, known to cause inflammation.

“We believe the compound will replace aspirin and similar drugs in most applications because of its lack of toxic side effects”, said Professor Burstein, referring to extensive animal studies, as well as a safety trial of the compound conducted in France last year among 15 healthy volunteers.

No clinically adverse effects were reported, including gastrointestinal ulcers, which have been associated with other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory compounds such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

But most significantly, no mood-altering side effects were reported. With an increasing number of medically beneficial compounds being found in marijuana, such as THC and CBD, researchers have been searching for years for ways to utilise these therapeutically without their associated “high”. They have had little success until now.

“Some people want the high,” admits Professor Burstein. “But the medical community wants efficacy without this effect.”

As well as animal studies of their own that show the compound is as potent a painkiller as morphine, Professor Burstein notes other promising animal studies that have been published. In rodent models of rheumatoid arthritis, the compound prevented joint damage. Tests of MS in rats showed the drug relieves muscle stiffness associated with the disease.

It is now undergoing tests in Germany in a group of 21 patients with chronic pain who take ajulemic acid orally twice daily, in capsule form.

Depending on these results, which will be available in about six weeks, the researchers predict the synthetic compound could be on offer by prescription within two years.

It could also be a promising alternative to current drugs used to treat arthritis, such as COX-2 inhibitors. These have been linked to adverse side effects, including heart attacks and stroke.”

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Cannabis drug ‘fights pain without high’

   “Scientists have developed a cannabis-based medicine which relieves chronic pain without any of the “high” normally associated with the drug.

They believe the discovery could pave the way for cannabis-based medication to become available by prescription within two years.

Much of the controversy surrounding the medicinal use of cannabis has centred on fears that it would be used solely for its mood-altering effects.

However, scientists at the University of Massachusetts in the United States say their discovery should help authorities to overcome these fears.

Dr Sumner Burstein and colleagues say early trials of the medication in animals and healthy patients have been promising.

The medication, called ajulemic acid or CT3, has been manufactured in laboratories.

It maximises the medicinal effects of tertrahydrocannabinol – the key ingredient of cannabis – without any of the mind-altering effects.

‘More effective’

In animal tests, this compound was found to be between 10 to 50 times more effective at reducing pain than tetrahydrocannabinol.

Those tests showed that ajulemic acid was very effective at preventing the joint damage associated with arthritis and relieving the muscle stiffness associated with multiple sclerosis.”

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Cannabimimetic Properties of Ajulemic Acid

   “Side effects of marijuana-based drugs and synthetic analogs of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC), including sedation and dysphoria, have limited their therapeutic application. Ajulemic acid (AJA), a side-chain synthetic analog of Δ8-THC-11-oic acid, has been reported to have anti-inflammatory properties without producing undesired psychoactive effects. Moreover, it has been suggested that AJA does not interact with cannabinoid receptors to produce its pharmacological effects. The aim of the present study was to conduct a thorough evaluation of the pharmacological effects of AJA then to determine whether actions at cannabinoid receptor (CB)1 mediated these effects… These studies demonstrated that AJA shares a number of CB1-mediated pharmacological properties with Δ9-THC, including cannabimimetic, discriminative stimulus, and antihyperalgesic effects. Furthermore, a separation between doses that produced antinociception and those that produced the other pharmacological effects in mice was not observed. Moreover, AJA showed nearly equipotency for therapeutic efficacy in the CFA model and for substitution in Δ9-THC discrimination. In summary, this study shows that AJA, like Δ9-THC, exhibits psychoactive and therapeutic effects at nearly equal doses in preclinical models, suggesting similar limitations in their putative therapeutic profiles.”

“Cannabis sativa (marijuana plant) has been used since antiquity for its presumed therapeutic, as well as for its euphoric effects. Although Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) has been identified as the major psychoactive ingredient in C. sativa, difficulty in dissociating unwanted side effects, such as sedation and psychotropic effects, from therapeutic effects has limited clinical application of Δ9-THC-based drugs. For example, dronabinol, an orally administered synthetic version of Δ9-THC, has been developed as an appetite stimulant and antiemetic for use in chronic diseases such as AIDS and cancer. In addition, recent evidence suggests oral Δ9-THC may be effective as an adjunct to opioid analgesics. The therapeutic utility of Δ9-THC, however, has been limited due to patient complaints of dysphoria and unpleasant subjective effects. Previous research has suggested that Δ9-THC carboxylic acid, one of the acid metabolites of Δ9-THC, lacks psychoactive properties of the parent compound and yet retains antinociceptive and other effects. Since this metabolite has a relatively low potency, structural changes that increased potency and stability of Δ9-THC analogs in previous structure-activity relationship studies were applied to the structure Δ9-THC carboxylic acid. The resulting compound, ajulemic acid (AJA), substitutes a 1′,1-dimethylheptyl side chain for the pentyl group of Δ9-THC and changes the Δ9-THC core structure to a more stable confirmation, Δ8-THC (Fig. 1).”

Fig. 1

“To date, the efficacy of AJA has been demonstrated in numerous pain and inflammation studies…”
“These findings also underscore the importance of thoroughly evaluating the pharmacological characteristics of novel Δ9-THC-like compounds…”
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Antitumor effects of ajulemic acid (CT3), a synthetic non-psychoactive cannabinoid.


   “One of the endogenous transformation products of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is THC-11-oic acid, and ajulemic acid (AJA; dimethylheptyl-THC-11-oic acid) is a side-chain synthetic analog of THC-11-oic acid. In preclinical studies, AJA has been found to be a potent anti-inflammatory agent without psychoactive properties. Based on recent reports suggesting antitumor effects of cannabinoids (CBs), we assessed the potential of AJA as an antitumor agent. AJA proved to be approximately one-half as potent as THC in inhibiting tumor growth in vitro against a variety of neoplastic cell lines. However, its in vitro effects lasted longer. The antitumor effect was stereospecific, suggesting receptor mediation. Unlike THC, however, whose effect was blocked by both CB(1) and CB(2) receptor antagonists, the effect of AJA was inhibited by only the CB(2) antagonist. Additionally, incubation of C6 glioma cells with AJA resulted in the formation of lipid droplets, the number of which increased over time; this effect was noted to a much greater extent after AJA than after THC and was not seen in WI-38 cells, a human normal fibroblast cell line. Analysis of incorporation of radiolabeled fatty acids revealed a marked accumulation of triglycerides in AJA-treated cells at concentrations that produced tumor growth inhibition. Finally, AJA, administered p.o. to nude mice at a dosage several orders of magnitude below that which produces toxicity, inhibited the growth of subcutaneously implanted U87 human glioma cells modestly but significantly. We conclude that AJA acts to produce significant antitumor activity and effects its actions primarily via CB(2) receptors. Its very favorable toxicity profile, including lack of psychoactivity, makes it suitable for chronic usage. Further studies are warranted to determine its optimal role as an antitumor agent.”

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Activation and Binding of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor γ by Synthetic Cannabinoid Ajulemic Acid

   “Ajulemic acid (AJA) is a synthetic analog of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) metabolite THC-11-oic acid; THC is a major active ingredient of the drug marijuana derived from the plant cannabis. AJA has potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity without the psychotropic action of THC. Unlike the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, AJA is not ulcerogenic at therapeutic doses, making it a promising anti-inflammatory drug. However, the mechanism of AJA action remains unknown. Here we report that AJA binds directly and specifically to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ), a pharmacologically important member of the nuclear receptor superfamily. Functional assay indicates that AJA activates the transcriptional activity of both human and mouse PPARγ at pharmacological concentrations. Activation of PPARγ by AJA requires the AF-2 helix of the receptor, suggesting that AJA activates PPARγ through the ligand-dependent AF-2 function. AJA binding consistently enables PPARγ to recruit nuclear receptor coactivators. In addition, we show that AJA inhibits interleukin-8 promoter activity in a PPARγ-dependent manner, suggesting a link between the anti-inflammatory action of AJA and the activation of PPARγ. Finally, we find that AJA treatment induces differentiation of 3T3 L1 fibroblasts into adipocytes, a process mediated by PPARγ. Together, these data indicate that PPARγ may be a molecular target for AJA, providing a potential mechanism for the anti-inflammatory action of AJA, and possibly other cannabinoids. These studies also implicate other potential therapeutic actions of AJA through PPARγ activation in multiple signaling pathways.”

“The mood-altering drug marijuana derived from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa contains a group of biosynthetically related substances known collectively as cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the major cannabinoids in marijuana, has potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities, but it also exhibits psychotropic effects, which limit its clinical application. Considerable effort has been expended toward the goal of creating nonpsychotropic cannabinoid derivatives that retain therapeutic actions but are free of psychotropic activity. A useful template for this search is the THC metabolite THC-11-oic acid…”

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Ajulemic Acid, a Synthetic Nonpsychoactive Cannabinoid Acid, Bound to the Ligand Binding Domain of the Human Peroxisome Proliferator-activated Receptor γ*

  “Ajulemic acid (AJA) is a synthetic analog of THC-11-oic acid, a metabolite of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major active ingredient of the recreational drug marijuana derived from the plant Cannabis sativa. AJA has potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity in vivo, but without the psychotropic action of THC. However, its precise mechanism of action remains unknown. Biochemical studies indicate that AJA binds directly and selectively to the isotype γ of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPARγ) suggesting that this may be a pharmacologically relevant receptor for this compound and a potential target for drug development in the treatment of pain and inflammation. Here, we report the crystal structure of the ligand binding domain of the γ isotype of human PPAR in complex with ajulemic acid, determined at 2.8-Å resolution. Our results show a binding mode that is compatible with other known partial agonists of PPAR, explaining their moderate activation of the receptor, as well as the structural basis for isotype selectivity, as observed previously in vitro. The structure also provides clues to the understanding of partial agonism itself, suggesting a rational approach to the design of molecules capable of activating the receptor at levels that avoid undesirable side effects.”

“AJA (also known as CT-3, IP-751, or 1′,1′-dimethylheptyl-Δ8-tetrahydrocannabinol-11-oic acid) was originally designed based on observations of the metabolic transformations of THC using the metabolite THC-11-oic acid as a template. AJA suppresses neuropathic pain in humans and prevents joint tissue injury in rat models of inflammatory arthritis. In all cases, these effects are observed without producing the motor side effects associated with THC.”

“In summary, our results show that AJA, as well as other THC analogs, in presenting specific binding together with minimal toxicity and good bioavailability may provide useful novel templates for rational drug design aimed at PPARγ regulation.”

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Ajulemic acid: A novel cannabinoid produces analgesia without a “high”.


   “A long-standing goal in cannabinoid research has been the discovery of potent synthetic analogs of the natural substances that might be developed as clinically useful drugs. This requires, among other things, that they be free of the psychotropic effects that characterize the recreational use of Cannabis. An important driving force for this goal is the long history of the use of Cannabis as a medicinal agent especially in the treatment of pain and inflammation. While few compounds appear to have these properties, ajulemic acid (AJA), also known as CT-3 and IP-751, is a potential candidate that could achieve this goal. Its chemical structure was derived from that of the major metabolite of Delta9-THC, the principal psychotropic constituent of Cannabis. In preclinical studies it displayed many of the properties of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); however, it seems to be free of undesirable side effects. The initial short-term trials in healthy human subjects, as well as in patients with chronic neuropathic pain, demonstrated a complete absence of psychotropic actions. Moreover, it proved to be more effective than placebo in reducing this type of pain as measured by the visual analog scale. Unlike the narcotic analgesics, signs of dependency were not observed after withdrawal of the drug at the end of the one-week treatment period. Data on its mechanism of action are not yet complete; however, the activation of PPAR-gamma, and regulation of eicosanoid and cytokine production, appear to be important for its potential therapeutic effects.”

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Antihyperalgesic properties of the cannabinoid CT-3 in chronic neuropathic and inflammatory pain states in the rat.


   “CT-3 (ajulemic acid) is a synthetic analogue of a metabolite of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol that has reported analgesic efficacy in neuropathic pain states in man. Here we show that CT-3 binds to human cannabinoid receptors in vitro, with high affinity at hCB1 (Ki 6 nM) and hCB2 (Ki 56 nM) receptors. In a functional GTP-gamma-S assay CT-3 was an agonist at both hCB1 and hCB2 receptors (EC50 11 and 13.4 nM, respectively). In behavioural models of chronic neuropathic and inflammatory pain in the rat, oral administration of CT-3 (0.1-1 mg/kg) produced up to 60% reversal of mechanical hyperalgesia. In both models the antihyperalgesic activity was prevented by the CB1-antagonist SR141716A but not the CB2-antagonist SR144528. In the tetrad of tests for CNS activity, CT-3 (1-10 mg/kg, po) produced dose-related catalepsy, deficits in locomotor performance, hypothermia, and acute analgesia. Comparison of 50% maximal effects in the tetrad and chronic pain assays produced an approximate therapeutic index of 5-10. Pharmacokinetic analysis showed that CT-3 exhibits significant but limited brain penetration, with a brain/plasma ratio of 0.4 measured following oral administration, compared to ratios of 1.0-1.9 measured following subcutaneous administration of WIN55,212-2 or Delta9-THC. These data show that CT-3 is a cannabinoid receptor agonist and is efficacious in animal models of chronic pain by activation of the CB1 receptor. Whilst it shows significant cannabinoid-like CNS activity, it exhibits a superior therapeutic index compared to other cannabinoid compounds, which may reflect a relatively reduced CNS penetration.”

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Effect of the cannabinoid ajulemic acid on rat models of neuropathic and inflammatory pain.


   “There is increasing evidence that cannabinoid agonists alleviate the abnormal pain sensations associated with animal models of neuropathic and inflammatory pain. However, cannabinoids produce a number of motor and psychotropic side effects. In the present study we found that systemic administration of the cannabinoid acid derivative 1′,1′-dimethylheptyl-delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol-11-oic acid (ajulemic acid, IP-751) and the non-selective cannabinoid receptor agonist HU-210 reduced mechanical allodynia in a nerve-injury induced model of neuropathic pain and in the CFA-induced model of inflammatory pain. In contrast, HU-210, but not ajulemic acid reduced motor performance in the rotarod test. These findings suggest that ajulemic acid reduces abnormal pain sensations associated with chronic pain without producing the motor side effects associated with THC and other non-selective cannabinoid receptor agonists.”

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