Cannabidiol prolongs life and increases activity in worms and possibly also in the elderly
The Canadian company Canopy Growth, specialized in cannabis, and its medical division Spectrum Therapeutics today announced the completion and publication of a study examining the effects of long-term use of cannabidiol. One of the first large studies of the lifelong effects of CBD found that it prolongs life and increases activity in old age in worms. Canopy conducted this study in partnership with Nemalife Inc. and published it online in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. The aim of the study was to assess the solubility, stability, acute toxicity, thermotolerance and the effect on shelf life of CBD in specific models.
While the results are promising, the use of organisms with a two-week lifespan shows how hard the industry is working to meet the demand for pure science, which has been overtaken by the hype of consumers. After all, CBD is already used by millions of people around the world to treat problems like insomnia and anxiety, and little research has been done on humans to determine its long-term safety. or even efficiency.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the substance's varying effects on men and women will influence its regulation, but it has not yet specified how. For now, that leaves companies like Canopy to fill the research gap, which may ultimately help the FDA decide how to regulate it.
What is C. elegans worm?
For the study, Canopy used the Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) worm model because they share 60-80% of their genes with humans.
Canopy's study, which will likely be published this week, found no signs of CBD's toxic effects, even when used for the life of the worms. Short-lived animals are commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry's early tests to detect toxic effects when using new compounds.
Administration of CBD prolonged average lifespan by up to 18% and increased activity in later stages of life by up to 206% compared to untreated controls
None of the 3.504 C. Elegans worms in the Canopy study died prematurely compared to a control group, even at significantly high doses - a good sign for the safety of CBD, said Hunter Land, senior scientific director of Canopy. Better yet, in doses on the order of human consumption, CBD extended the life of small roundworms by 18%, and they showed an increase in activity of 206%.
“As they get older, they move around more like young animals,” Land, who designed the study, said in a phone interview. “Rather than seeing something toxic, we see the opposite - it actually increases health parameters.”
The study is part of a series Canopy is working on to assess CBD. She already sells products like Martha Stewart brand gums and tinctures. The company also has a partnership with beer maker Constellation Brands and is moving towards CBD drinks. Other companies that focus on the compound are also doing research. CBDMD Inc. Martin Sumichrast, managing director, said he is working with other companies on studies to be announced in the coming months.
Clinical interest in CBD, considered for decades the annoying little brother of THC, has grown since two major developments in 2018. That year, regulators approved the drug Epidiolex to treat epilepsy, prompting again the interest of scientists, and new legislation removed CBD from the Schedule 1 drug list, making laboratory experiments easier.
Can the cannabinoid system help prolong the life of worms?
Given the number of people who consume it daily today, especially the elderly who may take other medications and have slower metabolisms, more work needs to be done, she said. “In general, it's recognized as a pretty safe substance, but people assume it's completely safe, and I'm here to tell you that if you take certain medications you shouldn't assume it”.
Allyn Howlett, professor at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, known for her discovery of a receptor in the brain that responds to cannabinoids, said even the biological basis for the effects of CBD is not yet well understood. There could be concerns about neural development and other complex issues that are not addressed in simple animal studies, she said.
“Despite the widespread use of CBD, no lifetime toxicity studies have been conducted to date to determine the impact - or potential impact - of long-term exposure to cannabidiol,” says Canopy Growth Senior Director of Translational and Discovery Science Hunter Land. “These results are the only lifetime exposure data for CBD in an in vivo model to date, and the absence of long-term toxicity gives us the evidence we need as an industry to continue to research the potential health benefits of wider application of CBD ”.
According to Canopy, while more research should be done in mammalian models, the C. elegans model indicates a lack of long-term toxicity at physically relevant concentrations. Together with Canopy's medical division, the company says its ongoing research initiatives are aimed at better understanding and using the full potential of cannabis.