Cannabinoids, chemicals related to those found in cannabis could be effective in restoring neurological function by shrinking the area of the brain affected by stroke, according to a new study led by Dr. Tim England, Honorary Consultant Stroke Physician at the University of Nottingham and Royal Derby Hospital.
Stroke, a leading cause of adult disability in the UK leaves over half of all survivors dependent on others for life. Over one million people are living with the effects of stroke and it is reported that in the UK alone, over 150,000 people have a stroke every year. Finding new treatments to help survivors recover quickly has never been more important.
The authors examined 94 studies evaluating the effects of cannabinoids on 1022 mice, monkeys, and male rats. Cannabinoids can be classified into endocannabinoids that occur naturally in the body, phytocannabinoids that are obtained from plant extracts, and synthetic cannabinoids.
A meta-analysis of experimental studies conducted by the researchers at the University of Nottingham identifies the potential of all three categories of these compounds potential to reduce brain damage caused by stroke and help improve brain function after an attack. Further research is required before moving onto initial safety assessments in a clinical trial to investigate whether cannabinoids have the same effects on the highly complex human brain.
The U.S. government sought a patent in 2001 for the naturally occuring marijuana molecule, cannabidiol, for use as a brain protector during stroke.