Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body's cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. In 2013 it was estimated that more than 382 million people in the world had some form of diabetes.
Israeli scientists are testing a cannabis-based therapy for diabetes. Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have tracked down a specific chemical compound in the cannabis plant, a cannabinoid called "cannabidiol" that researchers say can be used to treat diabetes. The best source for cannabidiol, or CBD, is hemp.
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the researcher known for discovering CBD, has collaborated with researcher Dr. Ruth Gallily, also from Hebrew University. Dr. Mechoulam discovered receptors for cannabinoids in the brain and in other body tissues, opening up an entirely new area of research into how coucannabinoids could be modified to fit different receptors to treat different illnesses.
Meanwhile, the discovery is already becoming a marketable commodity. An Israeli company called ISA Scientific signed a worldwide collaboration and licensing deal with Yissum, the technology-transfer company of Hebrew University; Hadasit, the technology-transfer company of Hadassah Medical Organization of Jerusalem; and KIR, the Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research in the UK.
The deal enables the creation and development of specific therapies using cannabidiol (CBD) by the inter-disciplinary research team headed by Mechoulam. KIR director/immunologist Sir Marc Feldman is also involved in the effort, as are Hadassah researchers and physicians Chaim Lotan, Lolan Weiss and Ronen Durst.
There are Phase I clinical trials on dosing and safety underway in Israel, according to ISA Scientific CEO Mark J. Rosenfeld. "Arrangements for Phase 2 trials on treating diabetes and chronic pain are in process," he said in a statement.
As Rosenfeld explained, the firm's Israeli research and development team had been working on the issue of an oral delivery system. Because very little CBD reaches the bloodstream when taken by mouth, it is necessary to create a more efficient system, he said. The problem was solved "with proprietary nanotechnology" currently being integrated into the firm's clinical trials.
According to Rosenfeld, CBD seems to have no major side effects. It does not affect activities such as work, school, sports or driving. In addition, the company said that it is working towards creating a way to "control diabetes into the medical market place."
"CBD may even help prevent diabetes," Rosenfeld said.