Parkinson’s disease is a type of neurodegeneration characterized by tremors, issues with balance, and other movement-related problems. Patients with Parkinson’s disease also frequently suffer from mood issues such as apathy and depression. Although the cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, the disease is clearly marked by reduced dopamine production in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra.
And while there’s currently no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, a marijuana-based medication created by GB Sciences has demonstrated promising results — catching the eye of both the scientific community and medical cannabis patients alike.
What is GB Sciences?
For those unfamiliar, GB Sciences is a technology company that merges plant biology, cultivation, and post-production processes in order to optimize safe, consistent medical cannabis treatment. They describe their goal as “marrying cutting edge cannabis cultivation with biopharmaceutical research and development.”
Think of GB Sciences as a mix between a pharmaceutical company and a large marijuana processor — they share features of both. Their state-of-the-art, 28,000 square-foot cultivation lab and custom “tissue propagation” techniques provide raw materials for ongoing research studies.
To learn more about GB Sciences, see: GBSciences.com.
Parkinson’s Disease: Marijuana Studies
The theory that marijuana can help those with Parkinson’s disease is nothing new. In a 2005 paper, Dr. Bob Melamede noted that endocannabinoid dysregulation might be a causal factor in the disease’s development, detailing how the Parkinson’s disease-related glutamatergic problems of lab rodents could be “suppressed by exo- as well as endocannabinoids.”
However, recent research by GB Sciences marks an important step forward. In December of 2019, the company announced outstanding results in a pre-clinical mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. More specifically, they reported successfully using a cannabinoid-rich formula to get Parkinson’s-affected mice “back to baseline.”
As Dr. Andrea Small-Howard, Chief Science Officer and Director of GB Sciences explains:
Several of GB Sciences’s mixtures were effective.
In fact, our most effective mixture was able to ‘rescue’ the Parkinson’s disease-like behavioral changes to the point where the treated animal’s behavior was back to baseline.
In addition, our Parkinson’s disease formulas produced negligible side effects, which is equally important.
Dr. Michael Farley, the President and Director of GBS Global Biopharma, the Canadian wing of GB Sciences, spoke to the study’s implications for the future:
We look forward to bringing these promising formulations into human clinical trials as early as 2020.
And sure enough, in early 2020, GB Sciences took another important step forward.
Advancing Parkinson’s Disease & Cannabis Research
Having already proved that their cannabinoid-rich formulation could work for Parkinson’s disease, GB Sciences now needed to identify its mechanism of action. But better and faster research was required. A timely breakthrough came in April of 2020, when GB Sciences announced they’d be using a new animal model to better capture the real-world pathology of Parkinson’s disease.
Historically speaking, science has struggled to successfully replicate human Parkinson’s disease in lab animals. But the utilization of neurotoxic zebrafish represents a clear improvement over older methods.
According to Dr. Lee Ellis of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC):
Although there is no single animal model for Parkinson’s disease that is entirely predictive of the human disease, we believe this zebrafish model may be superior to the rodent models.
Traditionally, there are two basic types of animal models for Parkinson’s disease: those using genetic modifications of the study animals and those using the application of targeted neurotoxins to induce Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms in the study animals. The zebrafish model of Parkinson’s disease uses a neurotoxin to induce Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms related to the loss of dopamine-producing neurons. (Remember: The loss of dopamine-producing neurons is directly related to major Parkinson’s symptoms.) Important neuroinflammatory biomarkers can also be measured through this model to assess their role in symptomatic relief and/or disease progression.
This new undertaking — and its highly efficient testing methods — should allow GB Sciences’s new marijuana-based Parkinson’s medication to advance quickly.
As Dr. Small-Howard explains:
We have expanded the scope of testing with the NRC for our Parkinson’s formulations based on achieving the statistically significant reduction in Parkinson’s disease symptomology faster than expected.
The NRC lab in Halifax has improved upon a zebrafish model of Parkinson’s disease that allows us to rapidly validate our Parkinson’s formulas and efficiently optimize them.
Unlike rodent models of Parkinson’s disease that take months to run with just a few animals in each treatment group, the zebrafish model of Parkinson’s is a high throughput system. Each experiment takes about a week to complete and each treatment group has a minimum of twenty-five individuals, which makes statistical significance easier to reach quickly.
These important preclinical results will be included in the Investigational New Drug (IND) application GB Sciences plans to submit with the U.S. FDA in order to enter human clinical trial as early as this year!