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Endocannabinoids: The scientific perspective

Science is at the threshold of understanding how the endocannabinoid system is fundamental to establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoid receptors are more numerous than any other category of receptors and are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells.

Phytocannabinoids are derived from the cannabis plant and comprise a collection of over 100 related chemical compounds, many with the capability to target the body’s endocannabinoid receptors. The pharmacological study of these phytocannabinoids is central to the development of new drugs for the treatment of many disease indications in which the endocannabinoid system is implicated.

Taking the different approach

diagram of cannabinoid-receptor

There are various approaches to developing these new classes of drugs. Knowing the endocannabinoid system occurs throughout the body, the traditional approach is to either stimulate or block receptors. While the receptors can be targeted, not enough is known enough about the specific mechanisms of action. Efforts to target the receptors directly have shown very limited success, and resulted in some dramatic failures. Attempts to synthesize various phytocannabinoids have also met with limited success.

Another approach is to harness the effects of the phytocannabinoids and turn the compounds into drugs delivered in standardized, metered dosing forms. Scientus is successfully pursuing this different approach to establish an armamentarium of drug therapies and treatments.

In the meantime, we have the cannabis plant itself which doesn’t need to be isolated to its specific cannabinoids. We already know that used in combination, its various cannabinoids do have a therapeutic value and are considered safe. For example, we know that a cannabinoid-based compound with levels of both THC, CBD, and various other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, can be effective in treating the symptoms of neuropathic pain. We can also be confident that it is suitable for other forms of pain and when, more importantly, is unlikely to have significant adverse effects.

Navigating the regulatory environment

Cannabis is classified as a narcotic. Although more benign than many other drugs, it is still a narcotic, and must be regulated as such. Unfortunately, as a result of all the hype, promotion and advocacy among various cannabis communities, the scientific research community has been handcuffed in attempting to gain access to cannabis and its derivatives in order to study its biological, physiological and chemical properties.

It is extremely difficult to get the regulatory approval required for research. Scientus started down this journey in 2013 and has already put into place the regulatory approvals to permit it to study all these areas of focus. In particular, we have studied individual cannabinoids and their mixes and ratios. As a result, we are able to profile and study the absorption into the body and effects on different systems including the endocannabinoid system. Today, we have advanced our work to a point where we are approaching the commercialization stage of developing new and safe therapeutic drugs.

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