Compound in cannabis could ease asthma

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Prof. Raphael Mechoulam, ‘father’ of medical cannabis, turns focus on asthma at Hebrew University’s Multidisciplinary Center on Cannabis Research.

 NOVEMBER 5, 2017, 8:00 AM

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Hebrew University Prof. Raphael Mechoulam, known as the “father” of the medical cannabis industry, will lead a team investigating the benefits of non-psychoactive cannabis components for treating asthma and other respiratory conditions.

In 1964, Mechoulam, was the first scientist to successfully isolate the THC component in cannabis. He was then a young researcher at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science.

Of the 140 cannabinoid molecules in the cannabis plant, the two main components are THC (the psychoactive component) and CBD, which has anti-inflammatory properties. CBD is the focus of much of Israel’s burgeoning medical cannabis research on diabetes, heart disease, autism, fracture healing and inflammatory bowel disease.

Mechoulam will conduct studies on CBD and asthma together with Prof. Francesca Levi-Schaffer at the Hebrew University’s recently established Multidisciplinary Center on Cannabis Research. The research has been commissioned by CIITECH, a UK-Israeli biotech startup headed by Clifton Flack, who cofounded iCAN-Israel Cannabis. The latter is beginning clinical testing on a cannabis formulation for insomnia.

Allergic diseases including asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis and food allergies affect approximately 20 percent of the global population.

Mechoulam’s asthma research aim is to identify “a possible inhibitory effect of a derivative of cannabidiol (CBD) on allergic airway inflammation.”

While asthma and allergies are generally well controlled by steroids or symptomatic drugs, some patients are steroid-resistant and have thus been labeled as “unmet clinical needs” by the World Health Organization. “We are looking forward to investigating whether the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD will work in treating this disease,” Mechoulam said.

Flack added, “Cannabis could well become this century’s wonder drug and we’re honored to have the opportunity to support Professors Mechoulam and Levi-Schaffer on this preclinical research project.”

The cannabis-asthma announcement coincided with Cannatech, the UK’s first-ever medical cannabis event, on October 26 in London.

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