CBD & Diabetic Ischemia

Some recent highlights and curiosities from the amazing world of cannabis science and therapeutics.
By Adrian Devitt-Lee On September 23, 2019
Vector of a human brain made of marijuana leaves.

Stroke, dementia, and Alzhiemer’s disease all involve varying degrees of oxygen deprivation in the brain. These diseases of aging are particularly damaging for elderly men and women with diabetes. Since CBD has shown some promise in treating diabetic complications, neurodegenerative diseases, and ischemia (brain damage due to oxygen deprivation), Brazilian researchers at the State University of Maringa decided to look at CBD’s health effects in an animal model of diabetic ischemia.

Brain ischemia can be sudden and severe, as with a stroke, or chronic, as happens in Parkinson’s and certain kinds of dementia. The Brazilian scientists induced an experimental model of type 2 diabetes in male mice, then looked at the consequences of low-grade ischemia and CBD treatment. CBD had a significant positive impact on diabetes in both groups by increasing plasma insulin. But the beneficial effects were more pronounced in the ischemia group, suggesting it has multiple protective effects. CBD’s influence on insulin only translated to a lower blood sugar in the mice that had an exacerbated condition from oxygen deprivation.

The researchers speculate on CBD’s possible mechanisms of action. It could be that CBD, by activating the orphan receptorinfo-icon GPR55, increases insulin production. But CBD’s ability to tone down CB1 activity (as a negative allosteric modulatorinfo-icon) or it’s activation of the gene-regulating PPARγ receptor could also affect insulin release. This experiment wasn’t meant to tease apart these mechanisms of action, so it remains a topic for future work.

Strangely enough, CBD-treated animals had lower levels of two liver enzymes indicative of liver damage, AST and ALT. These are the same enzymes that have sparked concern about CBD’s effect on the liver in epileptic children. Studies of the CBD-isolateinfo-icon Epidiolex find that a small but consistent fraction of patients — especially those taking high doses of CBD with valproate — have elevations in AST and ALT. The elevation of these enzymes can be severe, so these patients usually stop CBD treatment if this occurs.

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Adrian Devitt-Lee, Project CBD's chief science writer, is employed as a research chemist by the University College of London.