Brain and Body

Cannabinoid Pills May Offer the First Real Treatment Option for Concussions

November 3, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: shgmom56/Wikimedia Commons (CC by SA 2.0)

With a $16 million grant, researchers hope to develop a simple pill treatment for TBI and concussions through mouse and human studies.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) contributes to about 30 percent of all injury deaths in the United States, which amounts to 138 people dying every day from TBI-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Since 2000, there have been over 345,000 diagnosed cases of TBI among US Armed Forces members, and football, hockey, and other sport players continue to be “plagued at alarming rates,” as stated in new press release.

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In hopes of finally discovering a treatment for concussion, researchers involved in The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Miller School of Medicine have been given a $16 million grant to study whether a simple cannabinoid pill might offer a solution.

"The acute and chronic effects of mild TBI and concussion are well documented, but poorly understood," W. Dalton Dietrich, scientific director of The Miami Project and professor of neurological surgery at the Miller School, said in the release.

To better understand these effects, the team plans on conducting preclinical studies with mice, as well as a small human pilot study. Then, if these experiments are deemed safe and effective, the team will begin a fully-powered clinical trial over the next three years.

Specifically, the researchers will test the effects of combining CBD (a cannabinoid derivative of hemp) with a NMDA receptor antagonist (a class of anesthetics) to treat TBI and concussion. They hypothesize that this combo could decrease headache, pain, brain cell inflammation, and other symptoms associated with concussion.

"The implications for the study are extraordinary," said Michael Hoffer, professor of otolaryngology at the Miller School of Medicine.

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As this research unfolds over the next few years, we will gain a new understanding about how the brain responds to compounds with cannabinoids designed to treat concussion. Even in the case that it doesn’t yield a simple pill treatment, scientists will nevertheless learn how to better manage TBI and concussion.

But the researchers are determined: "Our mission is to develop and implement the first accepted drug regimen for the treatment of concussions,” Jonathan Gilbert, CEO of Scythian Biosciences, said in the release.

“We can only hope that our hypotheses and trials lead us to the ending we all desire - a simple pill to treat concussion,” concludes Gillian Hotz, a research professor of neurological surgery who will lead the study.

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