The University of Utah Health and the University of California San Diego recently announced separate plans to begin new phases of research on medical marijuana. In Utah, the study will focus on the individual effects of cannabinoids on brain processes, while UC San Diego researchers will probe possible treatments for autism with marijuana. Both projects have been made possible by grants from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation in partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation.
The University of Utah Health received $740,000 to support innovative brain-imaging research, which will analyze how various cannabinoids affect cognition, stress, and pain. The study will involve 40 healthy young adults and seek to understand the causal mechanisms through which cannabinoids interact with receptors in the brain.
“Deciphering the personalized effects of CBD [cannabidiol] and THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] will have a profound impact on how various cannabinoids may best be used for medical treatments,” said Jon-Kar Zubieta, MD, PhD, chair of the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and the study’s co-principal investigator.
With the support of a $4.7 million gift — the largest amount ever donated for medical marijuana research in the United States — the University of California San Diego will study the effects of CBD on autism. This research, the first of its kind, will investigate how CBD might correct neurochemical imbalances in individuals with autism, a condition that impacts an estimated 1 in 68 children born today.
“There are unconfirmed reports that cannabidiol could be helpful, but there are no careful studies to document either its benefits or its safety,” commented Igor Grant, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This gift will enable our researchers to develop and implement a translational program of research that pairs a clinical trial with detailed neurobehavioral observation, as well as basic science studies to determine if cannabidiol holds therapeutic promise, and if so, via what mechanisms.”