Dr. Titus’ Insights: Follow Up on NFL & CTE News

This week, our CEO Dr. Stuart Titus brings perspective to the recent media coverage of cannabis’ potential as a treatment for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the brain disorder caused by repeated head trauma that has afflicted many football players.

A killer article entitled appeared in Forbes this week, by journalist Deborah Borchardt.  A link to the article is here and is required reading for anyone wanting more knowledge on potential treatments for CTE. 

Deborah Borchardt really knocked it out of the ballpark with her tremendous coverage of the relevant issues affecting the NFL in regards to CTE.  I thought my readers may enjoy some further research which may have relevance to the treatment of CTE issue.  This treatment may well have implications for Alzheimer’s Disease as well as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) patients.

NFL Seeks New Medical Director

We did see this week a potential change in NFL CTE policy as the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodall announced the “early retirement” of the NFL’s Chief Medical officer, Dr. Elliott Pellman.  Basically many players (and presumably many NFL Owners, NFL Management) criticized Dr. Pellman for his lack of knowledge and grasp of the CTE situation.  Dr. Pellman once, famously, downplayed the risks of head injury and football.  A search is now on for a new, presumably more CTE progressive Medical Director.  Story: http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/roger-goodell-hire-new-chief-medical-officer-eliot-pellman-retire-concussions-brain-trauma-cte-072016

Alzheimer’s Research and Possible CTE Implications

Going into the science just a bit further, I have noted a recent early stage clinical study performed locally here in San Diego by the Salk Institute and Dr. David Schubert.  The research study, published in late June 2016 titled: Cannabinoids Remove Plaque Forming Alzheimer’s Proteins From Brain Cells and subtitled: Preliminary Lab Studies at The Salk Institute Find THC Reduces Beta Amyloid Proteins in Human Neurons. 

Link: https://www.salk.edu/news-release/cannabinoids-remove-plaque-forming-alzheimers-proteins-from-brain-cells/  

Beta amyloid is a toxic protein accumulation that occurs in brain cells and similar to a roadblock on a main interstate highway – these accumulations, over time interfere with and potentially destroy nerve communication cells and cell lines of communication.  Beta amyloid is a characteristic of Alzheimer’s patients.  Dr. Schubert’s study was on human brain cells, but performed in petri dish models and not full human subjects.  Nonetheless this opens the door to future human research.

Note that pharmaceutical development is 0 for 190 tries to find an answer that will as little as halt the downward progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  

Link: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-27/after-190-tries-are-we-any-closer-to-a-cure-for-alzheimer-s  

Cannabinoids may provide an answer…

Tau Protein

A similar-to-beta-amyloid protein accumulation is Tau protein accumulation.  Tau protein deposits are characteristic of CTE – and only able to be diagnosed in post-mortem autopsies.  Of 91 ex-NFL player’s brains donated to VA Boston Healthcare System / Boston University’s Brain Research Center and Dr. Ann McKee, 87 have tested positive for CTE.

Link: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/new-87-deceased-nfl-players-test-positive-for-brain-disease/

If cannabinoids can be shown to similarly reduce tau protein accumulations – then we may have answers for both Alzheimer’s as well as CTE.  Like beta amyloid, the Tau protein deposits act as roadblocks on interstate highways – interfering with nerve signals and transmission of vital brain communication networks.  As these toxic brain protein accumulations build up over time, increasing numbers of brain cells die off, exacerbating the communication problem.

Synaptic Density

The loss of neuronal cells and the loss of synaptic density in particular, is a biomarker for Alzheimer’s.  As the synapse is the area of the neuronal network where the signal “jumps the gap” between neurons, this is a major target for pharmaceutical intervention.  In reality, 100% of pharmaceutical intervention for neurological conditions targets the synapse – BUT only 2% of ALL neuronal communication occurs here (Source: Electro-Medical Products International, EMPI).  Thus the failure of traditional medicine to effectively treat any neurological disorder including:

It seems as though Cannabinoids can access the full spectrum of neurological communication – going well beyond the synapse.  A Dr. Marie Walbridge hosts an excellent 5 minute YouTube video entitled Dancing Neurons here.

Cannabinoids May Offer Hope

Thus the promise of cannabinoids and cannabinoid medications to potentially: 

(a) in natural botanical form, be used as a preventative with all high school, college and even pro football players on a hemp-based CBD regimen

(b) in pharmaceutical form, for those who have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) or full concussion event.

To this pharmaceutical approach, our team at Kannalife Sciences Inc. is hard at work and have developed a lead molecule, KLS-13019.  This molecule, a cannabinoid-like neuroprotectant, has demonstrated in pre-clinical efforts, significant neuroprotective capabilities.  Congratulations to Kannalife CEO, Dean Petkanas; Kannalife co-Founder Thoma Kikis; Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. William Kinney and Dr. Doug Brenneman, Chief Medical Officer.  Dr. Brenneman believes he may be close to describing an actual “mechanism of action” regarding the neuroprotective properties of KLS-13019, which would mark another milestone achievement for the Kannalife team.

Multi-Channel Approach

For the Alzheimer’s population, if this research holds true – again we would offer a two-pronged approach. First for those potentially at-risk, we would have them on the CBD natural botanical hemp-based product as an early preventative.  Then for the later stage, advanced Alzheimer’s patient – we would offer a pharmaceutical developed product – possibly this KLS-13019 or a similarly developed product by the Kannalife team.

Again – this is all speculative, as many compounds hold excellent promise in pre-clinical work – only to disappoint in later stage human trials.  But with no available pharmaceutical treatments for TBI / CTE and with few viable pharmaceutical options for Alzheimer’s – we remain optimistic that these challenges can be overcome by cannabinoid-based therapeutics.

Certainly when one starts to supplement the largest self-regulatory system within the human body, the endogenous cannabinoid system, good things seem to happen regarding people’s health and wellness.

Long term we feel that the hemp-based CBD, with hemp and the essential fatty acids serving as “brain food” combined with the US Government researched neuroprotective effects of CBD – provides a wonderful long term solution to many problems faced by at-risk-for-concussion sport athletes.  US Government Patent titled: Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants.

Further, that success here, may lead us to similar success with the challenge of Alzheimer’s and related dementia patients.

We look forward to providing further updates as our clinical efforts continue.

To Good Health –


Stuart W Titus, PhD
President & CEO
Medical Marijuana Inc. (OTC: MJNA)