UCSD to study how medicinal cannabis affects severe autism patients

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SAN DIEGO – UC San Diego Wednesday announced what the university touted as the largest private medicinal cannabis research donation in U.S. history.

The Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation’s $4.7 million gift to UCSD’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research will fund research on the potential of cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive compound found in cannabis, as a severe autism treatment. The award was given in partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation.

The center will study patients using advanced mathematics as well as clinical, scientific and genetic techniques to determine whether cannabidiol can ease autism symptoms.

“UC San Diego is pleased to partner with the Noorda and Wholistic foundations to advance understanding of when and how medicinal cannabis works, and to use this information to transform the lives of the many people for whom medicinal cannabis may make a meaningful difference in their quality of life,” said David A. Brenner, vice chancellor of UCSD Health Sciences. “We believe that by working together using evidence-based data, we can make the greatest impact on the field, our community and policy decision-makers.”

Autism’s causes are not fully understood, but a number of abnormalities have been identified in the brains of autism patients, including lower levels of available serotonin, an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters and irregular organization of brain networks.

Cannabidiol has a number of effects on the central nervous system that may be relevant to autism.

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