SCIENTISTS are considering running a trial which would see stroke survivors given the illegal class-B drug cannabis in a bid to reduce brain damage.
The “exciting” research has been compiled by researchers at the University of Nottingham, who have pulled together research from around the world to suggest that ‘cannabinoids’ – chemicals related to those found in cannabis, some of which also occur naturally in the body – could reduce the size of stroke and improve neurological function.
The research – so far which has only been done on rats – indicates that all three classes of cannabinoid could be effective in shrinking the area of the brain affected by stroke and in recovering neurological function.
Dr Tim England honorary consultant stroke physician at the University of Nottingham and Royal Derby Hospital led the study.
He said: “This meta-analysis of pre-clinical stroke studies provides valuable information on the existing, and importantly, missing data on the use of cannabinoids as a potential treatment for stroke patients.
“The data are guiding the next steps in experimental stroke in order to be able to progress onto initial safety assessments in a clinical trial.”
Dr Madina Kara, neuroscientist at the Stroke Association, said that a trial with the potential of giving humans doses of the drug would be “under discussion” after the research had been presented at the at a national stroke conference in Harrogate today. 3/12
She said: “It is exciting and after it is presented, discussion can take place about getting it trialed on humans.”
Dr Dale Webb, director of research and information at the Stroke Association, said: “Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the UK, with more than half of all stroke survivors left dependent on others for everyday activities.
“With more people in the UK surviving a stroke, it’s never been more important to find new treatments to help more stroke patients make better recoveries.
“This new research is an example of the many new developments in the field of stroke which are being presented at this year’s UK Stroke Forum.
“The findings have identified the potential for cannabinoids to reduce brain damage caused by stroke. Further research is needed to investigate whether cannabinoids have the same effects in humans: the effects of cannabis on the brain are highly complex and it remains a risky substance.”
Over 150,000 people have a stroke every year in the UK, and over 1 million people are living with the effects of stroke.
For more information about the Stroke Association, visit: www.stroke.org.uk or call 0303 303 3100.