Preventative and treatment effects of broad-spectrum cannabidiol (CBD) in a rat model of comorbid autism and epilepsy: A mechanistic study (2023)

Christopher Lowry, PhD
Associate Professor, Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado Boulder

Over 50% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show sub-clinical epileptic spikes by adolescence and 5-40% develop chronic epilepsy. Similarly, approximately 30% of children with epilepsy are also diagnosed with ASD. As a likely etiology, the role of inflammation in epilepsy is under intense investigation and there is increasing evidence for inflammation in the comorbidity of autism and epilepsy. Broad-spectrum cannabidiol (CBD) is a major bioactive component of marijuana that lacks the euphoria/intoxication associated with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-related cannabinoids yet has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. These anti-inflammatory effects introduce the possibility of its use in preventing and/or treating certain neurological disorders associated with inflammation, specifically ASD and epilepsy to be studied in this project. We hypothesize that the marked comorbidity between autistic behavior and epilepsy reflects limbic hyperexcitability produced by neuroinflammation. Yet, until now, there has been no preclinical animal model of comorbid autism and epilepsy, requisite to study mechanisms (e.g., neuroinflammation) and possible interventions. The primary aim of this project is to determine if administration of CBD during maternal or postnatal periods can prevent development of a comorbid ASD/epilepsy phenotype. In this project we will answer three questions: 1) Does maternal administration of CBD reduce comorbid ASD/epilepsy in rat pups? 2) Does postnatal (PN10–PN30; before epileptic spikes appear; administration of CBD reduce comorbid ASD/epilepsy in rat pups? 3) Does combined maternal and postnatal administration of CBD reduce comorbid ASD/epilepsy in rat pups? Successful outcomes may lead to novel approaches for prevention of comorbid ASD/epilepsy in children of high-risk mothers.

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Preventative and treatment effects of broad-spectrum cannabidiol (CBD) in a rat model of comorbid autism and epilepsy: A mechanistic study (2023)

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