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Cannabis plant used in cannabis research
Research_

Novel targets for cannabinoids

Researching new ways to treat a range of disorders

This project aims to identify novel targets for testing cannabinoids in animal models of disease and enable future drug discovery ventures for epilepsy and other disorders. 

One of the major, yet relatively uninvestigated, targets for cannabinoids is the family of receptors in the brain known as Cys-loop receptors. Cys-loop receptors are among the most prevalent in the brain and play a vital role in regulating the excitability of neurons. Examples include GABAA, nicotinic acetylcholine, glycine, and serotonin type 3 (5-HT3) receptors. These receptors are implicated in a range of disorders, including epilepsypain, dementia, anxietyaddictions and depression. They are also heavily implicated in neuroprotection, sleep, memory and learning, and social behaviour. Many drugs on the market target these receptors, including benzodiazepines, anaesthetics, the drugs used to prevent chemotherapy-induced nausea, and a number of anticonvulsants.

Naturally occurring genetic mutations in these receptors, or ‘channelopathies’, can lead to changes in the way that Cys-loop receptors function and/or the receptor’s expression in the brain and other organs. This can result in disorders such as epilepsy, myasthenia gravis and hyperekplexia (startle disease). Elucidating direct actions of cannabinoids on these receptors may provide mechanisms for treating such conditions.

The major aims of the project are to determine structure-activity relationships for multiple cannabinoids at Cys-loop receptors, to identify novel targets for testing cannabinoids in animal models of disease, and enable future drug discovery ventures for epilepsy and other target disorders based around actions at these receptors. 

An early breakthrough was our discovery of direct actions of cannabidiol (CBD) at certain types of GABAreceptors, recently published in the journal, Pharmacological Research.

Professor Mary Collins (Chebib)

Dr Michael Bowen

Professor Iain McGregor

Professor Jonathon Arnold

Dr Nathan Absalom

Mr Timothy Bakas

Dr Steven Devinesh

Drug discovery and development, cellular disease models.

Commenced in 2016

The Lambert Initiative

This project has identified specific phytocannabinoids of interest for a range of disorders.Initial findings suggest specific phytocannabinoids may offer advantages over existing medications for certain disorders. As a result, we have progressed a number of the early leads identified in this project into testing in pre-clinical models of disorders, including epilepsy, anxiety disorders, pain, and sleep disorders. 

Some of the important findings from this research were published in the international journal Pharmacological Research in May 2017.