Background and purpose: Extracts from the cannabis plant can dramatically improve the health of children suffering from refractory epilepsies such as Dravet syndrome. These extracts typically contain cannabidiol (CBD), a phytocannabinoid with well-documented anticonvulsant effects, but may also contain Δ9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9 -THC). It is unclear whether the presence of Δ9 -THC modulates the anticonvulsant efficacy of CBD. Here we utilized the Scn1a+/- mouse model of Dravet syndrome to examine this question.
Experimental approach: Scn1a+/- mice recapitulate core features of Dravet syndrome, including hyperthermia-induced seizures, early onset spontaneous seizures and sudden death. We assessed the effects on CBD and Δ9 -THC alone, and in combination, on hyperthermia-induced seizures, spontaneous seizures and premature mortality.
Key results: Administered alone, CBD (100 mg/kg i.p.) was anticonvulsant against hyperthermia-induced seizures as were low (0.1 and 0.3 mg/kg i.p.) but not higher doses of Δ9 -THC. A subthreshold dose of CBD (12 mg/kg) enhanced the anticonvulsant effects Δ9 -THC (0.1 mg/kg). Subchronic oral administration of Δ9 -THC or CBD alone did not affect spontaneous seizure frequency or mortality while, surprisingly, their co-administration increased the severity of spontaneous seizures and overall mortality.
Conclusion and implications: Low doses of Δ9 -THC are anticonvulsant against hyperthermia-induced seizures in Scn1a+/ mice, effects that are enhanced by a sub-anticonvulsant dose of CBD. However, proconvulsant effects and increased premature mortality are observed when CBD and Δ9-THC are subchronically dosed in combination. The possible explanations and implications of this are discussed.
Keywords: Cannabidiol (CBD), Dravet syndrome, epilepsy, mice, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC)
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