University receives $3 million grant for research on cannabis molecules


By Luis Velazquez, Staff Writer

A federal government agency has granted a $3 million fund to the University to conduct a study about cannabis molecules and their effect on pain.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, responsible for distributing funds among universities, granted the University $3 million for research. The NCCIH is the federal government’s lead agency for conducting scientific research on medical and health centers and practices and procedures not necessarily part of “conventional medicine.” 

The purpose of the new study is to figure out whether or not cannabis molecules help in relieving pain despite the fact some experts have said there is not enough evidence marijuana can actually be used as pain medicine. 

David Sarlah, professor in LAS, is one of the main contributors to the study. Sarlah will be investigating rare cannabinoids that will take care of pain receptors and their anti-inflammatory potential. Cannabinoids are defined as any group of chemicals related to the compounds of cannabis. 

“We will never directly deal with marijuana,” Sarlah said in an email. “We will synthetically prepare and test minor cannabinoids. These are compounds that are structurally similar to THC or CBD but are much less abundant in the plants, and we don’t know much about them.”

In a written statement, Sarlah said the University has the expertise to conduct projects like this that involve natural product synthesis and related biological investigations.

Aditi Das, associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, is also participating in this research. Das is working with her own team beside Sarlah’s team on cannabinoids, as her group will be conducting biological investigations. 

“They will learn how to synthesize these molecules,” Das said. “Some of them are complex and some of them are not complex. The students in my lab will get an idea of how these different receptors are done.”

Das is excited to be a part of this study. She said everyone uses these molecules, yet it is rare for people to use them in a study such as this. Das also believes there should be more advocacy with medical studies like the one she is currently working on.

“The (NCCIH) has had multiple opportunities for pain-relieving research, but I definitely think there is a lack of other drugs and strategies that can be used to relieve pain,” Das said.

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