For decades the medicinal properties and uses of cannabis have been debated and in clinical trials, extracts from the plant did show some promise. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Guelph have been successful in pinpointing the molecules within the drug that carry the analgesic properties.
The study has paved the way for pharmaceutical companies to take advantage of the discovery and prepare a pain-relieving agent that has minimal side effects and keeps the user safe from addiction and other synthetic-medicine related issues.
The spokesman from the University of Guelph, Dr. Tariq A. Akhtar is also serving as an Assistant Professor at the University in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Department. Dr. Akhtar said, “There’s clearly a need to develop alternatives for relief of acute and chronic pain that go beyond opioids. These molecules are non-psychoactive and they target the inflammation at the source, making them ideal painkillers.”
Mr. Akhtar worked closely with Professor Steven Rothstein from the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
The team made use of various scientific methods and processes to understand as to how the required molecules were produced by cannabis. These molecules, namely ‘cannflavin A’ and ‘cannflavin B’ are said to have anti-inflammatory effect 30 times stronger than that of Aspirin.
These molecules, cannflavins A and B, fall under the category of ‘flavonoids’ and were first discovered back in 1985. Back then the researchers had already witnessed the anti-inflammatory potential that they held. It was a breakthrough back then because a 30 times stronger drug means 30 times smaller dosage would be required to get the same benefits.
Cannflavins seemed the perfect replaced for acetylsalicylic acid- sold over the counter as Aspirin but the problem was, they were unsure as to how to mass-produce it without the help of cannabis. Extraction from cannabis did not seem to be a viable option as the use and research on cannabis was highly regulated.
After decades of stalled research, the team of researches saw a beacon of light when Canada legalized cannabis. The team has been carrying out tests and experiments since then to better understand the cannflavins synthesis process that occurs inside cannabis.
“Our objective was to better understand how these molecules are made, which is a relatively straightforward exercise these days,” said Akhtar. “There are many sequenced genomes that are publicly available, including the genome of Cannabis sativa, which can be mined for information. If you know what you’re looking for, one can bring genes to life, so to speak, and piece together how molecules like cannflavins A and B are assembled.”
Put simply, the research team experimented with the various genes in an attempt to identify the one responsible for the creation of cannflavins A and B.
The science journal Phytochemistry has a detailed report showcasing the findings from the research. This has given the pharmaceuticals a chance of developing health-related drugs.
“Being able to offer a new pain relief option is exciting, and we are proud that our work has the potential to become a new tool in the pain relief arsenal,” said Rothstein, the co-researcher on the team.
“The problem with these molecules is they are present in cannabis at such low levels, it’s not feasible to try to engineer the cannabis plant to create more of these substances. We are now working to develop a biological system to create these molecules, which would give us the opportunity to engineer large quantities.”, he added.
The currently available pain inhibitors work by disabling the brain’s pain receptors but regular use of these opioids can lead to addiction and other side effects. The cannflavins approach to relieve pain is nature’s way of relieving pain and targets inflammation first.
A Canadian company, Anahit International Corp., which specializes in cannabis-based products has been approached by the research team and together they have licensed a patent from the University of Guelph to manufacture cannflavin A and B without the cannabis plant.
“Anahit looks forward to working closely with University of Guelph researchers to develop effective and safe anti-inflammatory medicines from cannabis phytochemicals that would provide an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” said Anahit CEO Darren Carrigan.
Mr. Darren added, “Anahit will commercialize the application of cannflavin A and B to be accessible to consumers through a variety of medical and athletic products such as creams, pills, sports drinks, transdermal patches, and other innovative options.”
The commercial mass-production of cannflavin is a breakthrough in the anti-inflammatory product market and having a drug that can relieve pain without getting the patients addicted to it is a blessing in itself.