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Novel cannabinoids for epilepsy

Studying the effects of cannabinoids on reducing epilepsy symptoms

Using mouce models, we are testing the efficacy of individual phytocannabinoids, phytocannabinoid and terpenoid combinations, and full spectrum cannabis extracts to protect against seizures and mortality in Dravet syndrome. 

Project overview

Dravet syndrome is a devastating form of childhood epilepsy that has a mortality rate of 16 percent. Seizures often commence within the first year of life and significant developmental delays in cognition, speech and motor skills become evident during childhood. Current treatments for Dravet syndrome are grossly inadequate and many families resort to cannabis extracts out of desperation. This is not without good reason, as there are numerous reports of cannabis dramatically reducing seizures and improving the health of children with Dravet syndrome.

While conventional animal models of epilepsy have assisted in the development of anti-epileptic drugs, they have failed to find new agents that treat paediatric epilepsy. This project will use Dravet syndrome in mice to provide a new platform to discover novel therapeutic agents for childhood epilepsy. Genetic mutations observed in Dravet syndrome have been introduced in mice which faithfully reproduce key features of the disorder, such as early-onset seizures, mortality and developmental delays in cognitive, motor and social function.

We are assessing whether the cannabinoids protect against seizures and mortality in mice with Dravet syndrome. We are also examining whether cannabinoids halt developmental delays in cognitive, social and motor function. We are testing the efficacy of individual phytocannabinoids, phytocannabinoid and terpenoid combinations, and full spectrum cannabis extracts.

Commenced - May 2016

Associate Professor Jonathon Arnold
Dr Lyndsey Anderson
Professor Iain McGregor

Dilara Bahceci
Sarah Abelev

Drug discovery, preclinical disease models, pharmacokinetics and analytical chemistry

The Lambert Initiative

We recruited Dr Lyndsey Anderson from a preclinical Dravet syndrome drug discovery lab in the United States. She commenced work at the Lambert Initiative in May 2016.

We have discovered that certain phytocannabinoids reduced heat-induced seizures.

For the first time, we have characterised the brain and plasma pharmacokinetics of various phytocannabinoids and cannabis extracts. This provides important information in the therapeutic development of cannabinoids. It also limits false negatives in our screening program to ensure we test at the appropriate time-point. We are also exploring pharmacokinetic entourage effects.

We have commenced studies assessing whether cannabinoids improve developmental function in the mice.

We will soon commence screening against spontaneous seizures and examine whether Dravet syndrome involves an endocannabinoid system deficiency in the brain.

We are looking for PhD students to join our team and work on this important project