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Evaluation of Cannabidiol in Animal Seizure Models by the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP)


Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid component of marijuana that has no significant activity at cannabinoid receptors or psychoactive effects. There is considerable interest in CBD as a therapy for epilepsy. Almost a third of epilepsy patients are not adequately controlled by clinically available anti-seizure drugs (ASDs). Initial studies appear to demonstrate that CBD preparations may be a useful treatment for pharmacoresistant epilepsy. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) funded Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP) investigated CBD in a battery of seizure models using a refocused screening protocol aimed at identifying pharmacotherapies to address the unmet need in pharmacoresistant epilepsy. Applying this new screening workflow, CBD was investigated in mouse 6 Hz 44 mA, maximal electroshock (MES), corneal kindling models and rat MES and lamotrigine-resistant amygdala kindling models. Following intraperitoneal (i.p.) pretreatment, CBD produced dose-dependent protection in the acute seizure models; mouse 6 Hz 44 mA (ED50 164 mg/kg), mouse MES (ED50 83.5 mg/kg) and rat MES (ED50 88.9 mg/kg). In chronic models, CBD produced dose-dependent protection in the corneal kindled mouse (ED50 119 mg/kg) but CBD (up to 300 mg/kg) was not protective in the lamotrigine-resistant amygdala kindled rat. Motor impairment assessed in conjunction with the acute seizure models showed that CBD exerted seizure protection at non-impairing doses. The ETSP investigation demonstrates that CBD exhibits anti-seizure properties in acute seizure models and the corneal kindled mouse. However, further preclinical and clinical studies are needed to determine the potential for CBD to address the unmet needs in pharmacoresistant epilepsy.

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This work was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program contract HHSN 271201100029C awarded to the University of Utah with Dr. H. Steve White as the Principal Investigator. In December 2015, Dr. Karen Wilcox assumed the role of Principal Investigator for contract HHSN 271201100029C. This manuscript is submitted as a contribution to a special issue of Neurochemical Research in honor of the significant contributions of Dr. H. Steve White to epilepsy research and the NINDS ASP.


This report does not represent the official view of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or any part of the US Federal Government. No official support or endorsement of this article by the NINDS or NIH is intended or should be inferred.

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Correspondence to Brian D. Klein.

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All procedures performed in the studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution at which the studies were conducted.

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Klein, B.D., Jacobson, C.A., Metcalf, C.S. et al. Evaluation of Cannabidiol in Animal Seizure Models by the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP). Neurochem Res 42, 1939–1948 (2017).

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  • Cannabidiol
  • Cannabinoid
  • Preclinical screening
  • 6 Hz model
  • Maximal electroshock
  • Kindling model