| Cannabinoids in epilepsy

Sara Eyal Ph.D., Dana Ekstein


Epilepsy accounts for 1% of the global burden of disease, affecting sixty five million people in the world. The consequences of uncontrolled epilepsy include shortened lifespan, lower levels of school performance, depression and impaired psychological skills. Despite the availability of more than 30 antiepileptic drugs, roughly one in three patients with epilepsy remain resistant to these drugs, and patients keep looking for alternative treatments.

The anticonvulsant properties of cannabis have been known since the last century. However, interest in this area increased over the past few years, after reports about therapeutic benefits of cannabidiol in children with epilepsy. Cannabinoids have also been shown to have anticonvulsant properties in preclinical seizure models. However, the mechanisms of these are unknown. In addition, the nature of the antiepileptic cannabinoids (or their mixtures), the optimal route of administration, and potential interactions with antiepileptic drugs have yet to be clarified.

Our goal is to better understand the effects of cannabinoids on seizures and on disease progression in patients with epilepsy and in preclinical animal models. We will study the endocannabinoid system in epilepsy, the effects of various cannabinoids on this system, and potential other mechanisms through which cannabinoids can affect the epileptic brain, including their interactions with antiepileptic drugs and effects on the brain uptake systems for essential compounds.