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Why a Fish is at the Forefront of Cannabis Research

A new medical cannabis test in development is using an unlikely source, a common aquarium fish called the zebrafish (Danio rerio), to better research different strains of cannabis and determine which help treat certain medical conditions.

The research is being conducted in Israel by Camanex, a subsidiary of MIGAL Galilee Research Institute, and Canonic, a subsidiary of Evogene. Referred to as the “zebrafish system,” the fish can be useful in determining which medical cannabis strains have the most potential to treat specific conditions.

In fact, researchers believe results are achieved faster by studying zebrafish than by studying the same effects on mice or human test subjects. “Today we know how to map the medical implications of the same varieties from the cultivation companies in Israel and around the world quickly and economically for investors,” said Bar Nevo, CEO of Camanex, regarding this new round of studies.

This type of research has been used to learn more about how cannabis affects those who have been diagnosed with seizures, Parkinson’s disease, various pain conditions, autism and anxiety.

The cannabis used in these studies is cultivated by Camanex and Canonic, and the two companies are working to develop new strains that can be especially helpful in treating targeted medical conditions. The companies also work to identify strains that offer high commercial potential as well.

This isn’t the first time that the zebrafish has been used in research studies like this one. One study published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry in 2018 suggests that zebrafish are an “excellent model organism.” 

"Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is rapidly emerging as one of the most effective translational models in neuroscience and biological psychiatry. Due to their high physiological and genetic homology to humans, zebrafish may be effectively used to study the endocannabinoid and opioid systems,” the study states in its abstract. Another study revealed research that suggests that blocking zebrafish cannabinoid receptors can negatively affect its development.


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