On the application of cannabis in paediatrics and epileptology.


“An initial report on the therapeutic application of delta 9-THC (THC) (Dronabinol, Marinol) in 8 children resp. adolescents suffering from the following conditions, is given: neurodegenerative disease, mitochondriopathy, posthypoxic state, epilepsy, posttraumatic reaction. THC effected reduced spasticity, improved dystonia, increased initiative (with low dose), increased interest in the surroundings, and anticonvulsive action. The doses ranged from 0.04 to 0.12 mg/kg body weight a day. The medication was given as an oily solution orally in 7 patients, via percutaneous gastroenterostomy tube in one patient. At higher doses disinhibition and increased restlessness were observed. In several cases treatment was discontinued and in none of them discontinuing resulted in any problems. The possibility that THC-induced effects on ion channels and transmitters may explain its therapeutic activity seen in epileptic patients is discussed.”


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On-demand activation of the endocannabinoid system in the control of neuronal excitability and epileptiform seizures.


“Neurons intensively exchange information among each other using both inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters. However, if the balance of excitation and inhibition is perturbed, the intensity of excitatory transmission may exceed a certain threshold and epileptic seizures can occur. As the occurrence of epilepsy in the human population is about 1%, the search for therapeutic targets to alleviate seizures is warranted. Extracts of Cannabis sativa have a long history in the treatment of various neurological diseases, including epilepsy. However, cannabinoids have been reported to exert both pro- and anti-convulsive activities. The recent progress in understanding the endogenous cannabinoid system has allowed new insights into these opposing effects of cannabinoids. When excessive neuronal activity occurs, endocannabinoids are generated on demand and activate cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors. Using mice lacking CB1 receptors in principal forebrain neurons in a model of epileptiform seizures, it was shown that CB1 receptors expressed on excitatory glutamatergic neurons mediate the anti-convulsive activity of endocannabinoids. Systemic activation of CB1 receptors by exogenous cannabinoids, however, are anti- or pro-convulsive, depending on the seizure model used. The pro-convulsive activity of exogenous cannabinoids might be explained by the notion that CB1 receptors expressed on inhibitory GABAergic neurons are also activated, leading to a decreased release of GABA, and to a concomitant increase in seizure susceptibility. The concept that the endogenous cannabinoid system is activated on demand suggests that a promising strategy to alleviate seizure frequency is the enhancement of endocannabinoid levels by inhibiting the cellular uptake and the degradation of these endogenous compounds.”


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Targeting the endocannabinoid system in the amygdala kindling model of temporal lobe epilepsy in mice

“The endocannabinoid system can be considered as a putative target to affect ictogenesis as well as the generation of a hyperexcitable epileptic network… These data give first evidence that CB1-receptor activation might render a disease-modifying approach. Future studies are necessary that further analyze the role of CB1 receptors and to confirm the efficacy of CB1-receptor agonists in other models of chronic epilepsy.”


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The Endocannabinoid System Controls Key Epileptogenic Circuits in the Hippocampus

“Balanced control of neuronal activity is central in maintaining function and viability of neuronal circuits. The endocannabinoid system tightly controls neuronal excitability. Here, we show that endocannabinoids directly target hippocampal glutamatergic neurons to provide protection against acute epileptiform seizures in mice. Functional CB1 cannabinoid receptors are present on glutamatergic terminals of the hippocampal formation, colocalizing with vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (VGluT1). Conditional deletion of the CB1 gene either in cortical glutamatergic neurons or in forebrain GABAergic neurons, as well as virally induced deletion of the CB1 gene in the hippocampus, demonstrate that the presence of CB1 receptors in glutamatergic hippocampal neurons is both necessary and sufficient to provide substantial endogenous protection against kainic acid (KA)-induced seizures. The direct endocannabinoid-mediated control of hippocampal glutamatergic neurotransmission may constitute a promising therapeutic target for the treatment of disorders associated with excessive excitatory neuronal activity.”

“In conclusion, our study reveals a mechanism through which the endocannabinoid system is able to provide on-demand protection against acute behavioral seizures. CB1 expression on hippocampal glutamatergic circuits accounts for this protection and might represent a suitable target for the treatment of neurological disorders associated with excessive neuronal excitation.”


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Endocannabinoids and Their Implications for Epilepsy

“This review covers the main features of a newly discovered intercellular signaling system in which endogenous ligands of the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, or endocannabinoids, serve as retrograde messengers that enable a cell to control the strength of its own synaptic inputs. Endocannabinoids are released by bursts of action potentials, including events resembling interictal spikes, and probably by seizures as well. Activation of cannabinoid receptors has been implicated in neuroprotection against excitotoxicity and can help explain the anticonvulsant properties of cannabinoids that have been known since antiquity.”

“Cannabis in its various forms, including marijuana and hashish, is produced from the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Through their primary psychoactive ingredient, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), these drugs affect the central nervous system by activating specific membrane-bound receptors. The primary brain receptors, cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1), are G protein–coupled, seven-transmembrane domain proteins that share numerous similarities with heterotrimeric G protein–coupled receptors for conventional neurotransmitters such as γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate. The CB1s bind THC with a high degree of selectivity and are heterogeneously distributed throughout the brain. Inasmuch as THC is a plant-derived compound not produced in mammals, endogenous ligands must exist for the cannabinoid receptor, that is, endocannabinoids. Indeed, several endogenous ligands for CB1 have been discovered, with anandamide being the first. Anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG), are thought to be the major brain endocannabinoids, with regional differences in which one or the other predominates. Endocannabinoids have been strongly implicated in a growing variety of physiologic phenomena, including regulation of eating, anxiety, pain, extinction of aversive memories, and neuroprotection. Potent agonists and antagonists for CB1 exist and may serve as the foundation of new therapeutic strategies for treating pathologies. The voluminous work summarized here has been extensively covered in recent reviews on cannabinoid neurochemistry and pharmacology as well as neurophysiology. This review focuses on the neurophysiology of the endocannabinoid systems.”


From what is known about their synthesis and release, endocannabinoids should be produced under many conditions of increased neuronal excitability and specific intercellular signaling. For example, an epileptic seizure, with its large swings in transmembrane voltage, increases in intracellular calcium, and marked release of neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine and glutamate, should prominently release endocannabinoids. Indeed, seizures induced by kainic acid (a glutamate agonist) increase hippocampal levels of anandamide in normal and wild-type mice. Intriguingly, CB1 knockout mice and normal mice treated with a CB1 antagonist had more pronounced seizures and more severe excitotoxic cell death than untreated normal mice. Although the detailed mechanisms of neuroprotection have not been worked out, the rapid increases in expression of the immediate early genes, c-fos and zipf268, and subsequent increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) normally induced by kainic acid, were absent in the CB1 knockout mice. The results complement previous evidence that exogenous cannabinoids can be neuroprotective and show that CB1 activation by seizure-induced release of endocannabinoids also is normally neuroprotective.”

“The important new directions being opened by investigations of endocannabinoids underscore the prescient opinion of Robert Christison, who, in 1848, noting its various beneficial effects, argued that cannabis “is a remedy which deserves a more extensive inquiry…””


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The Endogenous Cannabinoid System Regulates Seizure Frequency and Duration in a Model of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

“Several lines of evidence suggest that cannabinoid compounds are anticonvulsant. However, the anticonvulsant potential of cannabinoids and, moreover, the role of the endogenous cannabinoid system in regulating seizure activity has not been tested in an in vivo model of epilepsy that is characterized by spontaneous, recurrent seizures. Here, using the rat pilocarpine model of epilepsy, we show that the marijuana extract Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (10 mg/kg) as well as the cannabimimetic, 4,5-dihydro-2-methyl-4(4-morpholinylmethyl)-1-(1-naphthalenyl-carbonyl)-6H-pyrrolo[3,2,1-i,j]quinolin-6-one [R(+)WIN55,212 (5 mg/kg)], completely abolished spontaneous epileptic seizures. Conversely, application of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor (CB1) antagonist, N-(piperidin-1-yl-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methyl-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxamidehydrochloride (SR141716A), significantly increased both seizure duration and frequency. In some animals, CB1 receptor antagonism resulted in seizure durations that were protracted to a level consistent with the clinical condition status epilepticus… These data indicate not only anticonvulsant activity of exogenously applied cannabinoids but also suggest that endogenous cannabinoid tone modulates seizure termination and duration through activation of the CB1 receptor… By demonstrating a role for the endogenous cannabinoid system in regulating seizure activity, these studies define a role for the endogenous cannabinoid system in modulating neuroexcitation and suggest that plasticity of the CB1 receptor occurs with epilepsy.”

“Characterized by spontaneously recurrent seizures, epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions. Understanding the factors that contribute to seizure initiation and termination has important implications for our ability to treat epilepsy and for the potential development of novel anticonvulsant agents. Previous evidence has suggested that the endogenous cannabinoid system may be a novel locus of anticonvulsant activity in the brain. Using the maximal electroshock model of short-term seizure, our laboratory determined that cannabinoid compounds block seizure spread via a cannabinoid CB1 receptor-dependent mechanism. Further study revealed that application of a CB1 receptor antagonist lowered the electroshock seizure threshold, indicating that elimination of endogenous cannabinoid tone at the CB1 receptor may increase seizure susceptibility.”

“The CB1 receptor is the most highly expressed G-protein-coupled receptor in brain and has been implicated in regulation of neuronal excitability. The endogenous cannabinoids, arachidonylethanolamine and 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG), are synthesized “on demand” in response to sustained neuronal depolarization and elevated intracellular calcium levels; both of these events occur with seizure activity. The neuronal hyperexcitability that accompanies seizure discharge may stimulate endogenous cannabinoid synthesis and subsequently result in CB1 receptor activation. In light of cannabinoid effects on neurotransmission, increased CB1 receptor activation could influence seizure activity. However, no studies have evaluated the role of the endogenous cannabinoid system in an intact model of epilepsy.”

“This study was initiated to evaluate the role of the CB1 receptor and the endogenous cannabinoid system in regulating seizure activity in a long-term model of epilepsy. We used the pilocarpine model of temporal lobe, partial-complex epilepsy; a rat model of acquired, refractory epilepsy that produces spontaneous recurrent seizures for the lifetime of the animal. The pilocarpine model has been shown to closely resemble human refractory partial-complex epilepsy. In this study, seizure frequency and duration were determined by continuous electrographic and video recording of each epileptic animal. The CB1 receptor agonists R(+)WIN55,212 and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were evaluated for anticonvulsant efficacy. In addition to agonist effects on seizure activity, the effect of CB1 receptor antagonism on seizure frequency and duration was evaluated using the specific antagonist SR141716A. Hippocampal levels of 2-AG during short-term, pilocarpine-induced seizures were measured to determine whether a correlation exists between endogenous cannabinoid synthesis and seizure activity. In addition, Western blot and immunohistochemical analyses were used to evaluate hippocampal CB1 receptor protein expression in the brains of chronically epileptic and sham control rats. The findings presented suggest an anticonvulsant role for the endogenous cannabinoid system and demonstrate that long-term plasticity of the CB1 receptor occurs with epilepsy.”

“Therapeutic Implications for Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy. Seizures in patients with refractory, partial-complex epilepsy can be difficult to control despite the use of currently available anticonvulsant medications and surgical interventions. Therefore, there is a clear need for the development of more effective anticonvulsant agents. Some epilepsy patients, seeking alternative treatments, have perceived improvement with marijuana. This has prompted several countries to consider the legalization of marijuana for epilepsy treatment. The pilocarpine model represents a refractory epileptic condition that is not readily treated by conventional anticonvulsants. Our results demonstrate that activation of the CB1 receptor by cannabinoid drugs and possibly endogenous ligands significantly alters seizure activity and is more effective than conventional anticonvulsants in treating the refractory seizures produced in the pilocarpine model. Although the dose dependence and long-term effects of cannabinoid administration on epilepsy must be further investigated, the results presented here provide evidence that warrants a comprehensive assessment of cannabinoid use in the control of refractory epilepsy via the use of animal models and placebo-controlled clinical trials. Although the psychoactive side effects of cannabinoids make their use in the treatment of epilepsy impractical, understanding the mechanisms of endogenous cannabinoid-mediated anticonvulsant action may lead to the development of novel compounds that do not manifest behavioral toxicity. Further investigation of the cannabinoid anticonvulsant phenomenon may illuminate novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of temporal lobe epilepsy as well as more clearly define the physiological function of the endogenous cannabinoid system in brain.”


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Marijuana, endocannabinoids, and epilepsy: Potential and challenges for improved therapeutic intervention.


  “Phytocannabinoids isolated from the cannabis plant have broad potential in medicine that has been well recognized for many centuries. It is presumed that these lipid soluble signaling molecules exert their effects in both the central and peripheral nervous system in large part through direct interaction with metabotropic cannabinoid receptors. These same receptors are also targeted by a variety of endogenous cannabinoids including 2-arachidonoyl glycerol and anandamide. Significant effort over the last decade has produced an enormous advance in our understanding of both the cellular and the synaptic physiology of endogenous lipid signaling systems. This increase in knowledge has left us better prepared to carefully evaluate the potential for both natural and synthetic cannabinoids in the treatment of a variety of neurological disorders. In the case of epilepsy, long standing interest in therapeutic approaches that target endogenous cannabinoid signaling systems are, for the most part, not well justified by available clinical data from human epileptics. Nevertheless, basic science experiments have clearly indicated a key role for endogenous cannabinoid signaling systems in moment to moment regulation of neuronal excitability. Further it has become clear that these systems can both alter and be altered by epileptiform activity in a wide range of in vitro and in vivo models of epilepsy. Collectively these observations suggest clear potential for effective therapeutic modulation of endogenous cannabinoid signaling systems in the treatment of human epilepsy, and in fact, further highlight key obstacles that would need to be addressed to reach that goal.”


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Marijuana: an effective antiepileptic treatment in partial epilepsy? A case report and review of the literature.


“Although more data are needed, animal studies and clinical experience suggest that marijuana or its active constituents may have a place in the treatment of partial epilepsy. Here we present the case of a 45-year-old man with cerebral palsy and epilepsy who showed marked improvement with the use of marijuana. This case supports other anecdotal data suggesting that marijuana use may be a beneficial adjunctive treatment in some patients with epilepsy. Although challenging because of current federal regulations, further studies are needed to examine the role of marijuana in the treatment of this disorder.”


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Medicinal cannabis: is delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol necessary for all its effects?


  “Cannabis is under clinical investigation to assess its potential for medicinal use, but the question arises as to whether there is any advantage in using cannabis extracts compared with isolated Delta9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta9THC), the major psychoactive component. We have compared the effect of a standardized cannabis extract (SCE) with pure Delta9THC, at matched concentrations of Delta9THC, and also with a Delta9THC-free extract (Delta9THC-free SCE), using two cannabinoid-sensitive models, a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS), and an in-vitro rat brain slice model of epilepsy. Whilst SCE inhibited spasticity in the mouse model of MS to a comparable level, it caused a more rapid onset of muscle relaxation, and a reduction in the time to maximum effect compared with Delta9THC alone. The Delta9THC-free extract or cannabidiol (CBD) caused no inhibition of spasticity. However, in the in-vitro epilepsy model, in which sustained epileptiform seizures were induced by the muscarinic receptor agonist oxotremorine-M in immature rat piriform cortical brain slices, SCE was a more potent and again more rapidly-acting anticonvulsant than isolated Delta9THC, but in this model, the Delta9THC-free extract also exhibited anticonvulsant activity. Cannabidiol did not inhibit seizures, nor did it modulate the activity of Delta9THC in this model. Therefore, as far as some actions of cannabis were concerned (e.g. antispasticity), Delta9THC was the active constituent, which might be modified by the presence of other components. However, for other effects (e.g. anticonvulsant properties) Delta9THC, although active, might not be necessary for the observed effect. Above all, these results demonstrated that not all of the therapeutic actions of cannabis herb might be due to the Delta9THC content.”


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Targeting the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoid receptor agonists: pharmacological strategies and therapeutic possibilities.

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences: 367 (1607)

“Human tissues express cannabinoid CB(1) and CB(2) receptors that can be activated by endogenously released ‘endocannabinoids’ or exogenously administered compounds in a manner that reduces the symptoms or opposes the underlying causes of several disorders in need of effective therapy. Three medicines that activate cannabinoid CB(1)/CB(2) receptors are now in the clinic: Cesamet (nabilone), Marinol (dronabinol; Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THC)) and Sativex (Δ(9)-THC with cannabidiol). These can be prescribed for the amelioration of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (Cesamet and Marinol), stimulation of appetite (Marinol) and symptomatic relief of cancer pain and/or management of neuropathic pain and spasticity in adults with multiple sclerosis (Sativex). This review mentions several possible additional therapeutic targets for cannabinoid receptor agonists. These include other kinds of pain, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke, cancer, drug dependence, glaucoma, autoimmune uveitis, osteoporosis, sepsis, and hepatic, renal, intestinal and cardiovascular disorders. It also describes potential strategies for improving the efficacy and/or benefit-to-risk ratio of these agonists in the clinic. These are strategies that involve (i) targeting cannabinoid receptors located outside the blood-brain barrier, (ii) targeting cannabinoid receptors expressed by a particular tissue, (iii) targeting upregulated cannabinoid receptors, (iv) selectively targeting cannabinoid CB(2) receptors, and/or (v) adjunctive ‘multi-targeting’.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23108552

“Targeting the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoid receptor agonists: pharmacological strategies and therapeutic possibilities”  http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/367/1607/3353.long

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