Adult Marijuana Use Doubles Over Past Decade

According to an article today in JAMA Psychiatry, An estimated 9.5% of adults in this country use marijuana, and 30% of users meet the criteria for marijuana use disorder. These numbers are double those from ten years ago. The work was conducted in the NIAAA intramural lab of Dr. Bridget Grant.

These findings highlight the changing cultural norms related to marijuana use, which could bring additional public health challenges related to addiction, drugged driving and access to effective treatment,” states Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which contributed funding to the study. This and other comments can be found in an NIH-issued press release today.

Other recent findings from NIDA- and NIAAA-funded studies:

At present, 23 states have medical marijuana laws and 4 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. These numbers will continue to rise. The study authors note that public education about the dangers associated with marijuana use will be increasingly important to counteract public beliefs that marijuana use is harmless.

Repurposed Cancer Drug Restores Brain Function in Mouse Models of Alzheimer’s Disease

Recently, a team of researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine discovered that a drug originally developed for the use of cancer therapy could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease (March 21, 2015 Annals of Neurology; click here for NIH story). The drug is called saracatinib, originally developed by the biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. However, through the NIH-funded initiative to repurpose experimental drugs, the research team discovered that the drug restores memory loss and reverses brain problems in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Nearly 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. When a person develops Alzheimer’s disease, clumps of amyloid beta protein build up in the brain, damaging brain cells and synapses. Current Alzheimer’s treatments only ease the symptoms of the disease. When saracatinib was given to mice with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s patients, mice showed a complete reversal of spatial learning and memory loss after four weeks. The researchers found that the drug actually restored the synapses.

Normally it takes around ten years for an experimental drug to be approved for a Phase 2a human clinical trial. This process took the Yale research team only 18 months. “The investigational drug already had been developed, optimized and studied in animals as well as tested for safety in humans, so our ability to obtain this asset through NCATS and AstraZeneca gave us an incredible shortcut in the drug development process,” explained Strittmatter, the senior author on the study. This discovery serves as a testament to the importance of collaboration and knowledge sharing across groups. The human trial will involve 152 subjects, who will receive either saracatinib or a placebo for one year. The researchers expect to have results in the next two years.

How to Use RePORTER When Preparing New Grant Applications

I love the NIH RePORTER website. One could spend hours on this site, looking at funding trends, levels, priorities, and percentages. If you are considering writing a grant application or contract proposal to NIH, it is well worth spending time on this website to see what NIH is already funding in your topic area.  If you find a similar project, read about it and determine if your proposed project could offer something different. If you find no funding for your topic, it could mean there is a gap in an Institute’s funding portfolio that they might want to fill, or it could mean it is not a funding priority for them at this time. As always, discuss your grantsmanship strategies with your prospective Program Officer(s). NIGMS has a recent post on using RePORTER to search for funded projects in your area:

How to Use RePORTER When Preparing New Grant Applications – NIGMS Feedback Loop Blog – National Institute of General Medical Sciences.