Volume 12, Number 2 September 10, 2004

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Marijuana may intensify epileptic seizures

The U of S’s new Neural Systems and Plasticity Group reports that while THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, suppresses grand-mal type seizures in rats, it may intensify the severity of the most common seizures that start in the temporal lobes of the brain.

Because of the severity of the side effects of conventional anticonvulsant drugs, some epileptics use marijuana to control their condition but initial findings from the research group’s work suggests this may do more harm than good. Group leader Michael Corcoran said in a news release the work with rats may mean cannabinoid compounds (synthetic THC) increase epileptic seizures by reducing the brain’s natural ability to limit the spread of electrical activity that usually triggers seizures.

Insects clean up the soil

A collaborative project between researchers at the U of S and the University of California has demonstrated for the first time that insects can detoxify selenium in the environment.

A July news release reports the finding, which was the cover story in a recent edition of Environmental Science and Technology. The research, led by Helen Nichol of the U of S Dept. of Anatomy & Cell Biology, looked at selenium, a naturally occurring element that can be toxic to humans and other organisms at high doses. In a complex process involving alfalfa plants, beet armyworm caterpillars that eat the alfalfa and wasps that prey on the caterpillars, the researchers who work in the emerging field of phytoremediation or using plants to clean up contaminated soils, found that insects might actually aid the process.

Key to the finding was the use of x-ray facilities at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory to track the movement of selenium from soil to plant to insect.

Group looks at traditional medicine benefits

A new U of S Cardiovascular Research Group is working with two northern Aboriginal communities in the study of traditional medicine that may reduce hypertension and improve heart health.

The first task for the group will be to gather information about 26 locally grown plants used by First Nations to combat cardiovascular disease, according to physiologist Rui Wang who heads the group. Wang, who is trained in traditional Chinese herbal medicine, said in a news release the analysis of herbal medicine and practices will identify the plants that hold the greatest therapeutic promise and may validate anecdotal claims that these plants benefit heart health.

New drug may combat lung inflammation

A drug that may help deal with inflammatory diseases like Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a currently untreatable disorder that kills 40 per cent of its victims, has been discovered by the U of S’s new Immunology Research Group.

Experiments have shown the drug known as G31P has been used to successfully treat piglets, calves and guinea pigs suffering from near-fatal lung problems. Human trials are still a few years away. The drug may also be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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