A major new study into the pain-relieving benefits of cannabis-based medication is to be carried out in Belfast.
The £250,000 project by Ulster University and pharmaceutical start-up GreenLight Medicines will examine the effects on people with various forms of arthritis.
Dr David Gibson, a specialist rheumatoid arthritis researcher who will lead the UU team, said the study had the potential to transform lives.
“We will test how effective cannabis plant extracts are at reducing inflammation that often causes joint damage and disability in arthritis,” he said.
“The research will explore which compounds of the plant are the most promising and help inform dosage recommendations, before advancing to clinical tests on arthritis patients.”
GreenLight Medicines was founded in 2015 by Wicklow-based Dr James Linden, originally from Saintfield in Co Down.
The company primarily focuses on the potential use of cannabis-based extracts as a medicine to treat a diseases such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cancer and epilepsy.
Dr Linden said: “We are studying several components of the cannabis plant which have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties.
“Specifically, we're investigating the use of cannabis-based extracts that have been proven to reduce inflammation, and we wish to explore the full therapeutic potential of these molecules in relation to several inflammatory diseases.”
He added: “Ulster University is renowned for its reputation in biomedical sciences research and it has been incredibly supportive during our early development stage, with the researchers having an endless thirst to lead the way in many areas of research across a spectrum of diseases.”
The new study is the first stage of a £1m project that will take place over the next five years involving a number of research institutions.
It will move GreenLight towards validation of the first product, which is targeted at patients who have osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.