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ICR State RFA 2024

ICR – 2024 RFA Funded Research Projects:

William Baurele

Dr. William Baurerle

Colorado State University, Fort Collins

Increasing the Analytical Testing Capability of Cannabinoids and Concomitant Phytomolecules in Cannabis-derived Plant Matrices

Water for irrigation and essential elements for plant nutrition, two critical inputs for Cannabis production, are finite resources. We aim to quantify Cannabis crop essential element and water use requirements in intensive horticulture production systems. Quantitative data of this nature provides mineral nutrient and transpiration management information that producers can deploy for resource input decision-making throughout the crop production cycle. Developing best practices to improve and optimize nutrient and irrigation efficiency will provide small- to large-scale Cannabis producers with scientific knowledge to increase their input efficiency, reduce resource waste, and increase the sustainability of a horticulture industry critical to Colorado’s economic growth and prosperity. The outcome will increase nutrient and irrigation application efficiency, thus allowing Cannabis producers to conserve fertilizer and water resources. Overall, the project aims to develop best management practices to optimize nutrient and irrigation use efficiency throughout Cannabis production cycles.


Dr. Hollis Karoly, CO PI Dr. Patti Davies

Colorado State University, Fort Collins

Developing predictive models to distinguish alcohol use, cannabis use and co-use: an exploration of electroenceph-alography (EEG) metrics and traditional intoxication measures

Alcohol and cannabis are commonly used at the same time and are both known to impair cognitive and psychomotor functions relevant for driving. Following legalization of recreational cannabis in Colorado, DUIs involving cannabis (including cannabis in combination with alcohol) have increased. Currently, there are no validated roadside tests of cannabis-intoxication or co-intoxication, and considerable further research in this area is needed. This project aims to inform the eventual development of roadside tests for cannabis use and co-use, informed by electroencephalography (EEG). Specifically, we will assess neurocognitive function in 3 groups of human participants who are randomly assigned to consume alcohol, cannabis or both alcohol and cannabis during an experimental session in our federally-compliant mobile laboratory. The neurocognitive measures derived from EEG separate the phases of cognitive processing including attention, discrimination, decision making, error detection and adapting behavior to correct errors. The goal of this study is to use EEG to differentiate alcohol and cannabis co-intoxication from single-substance intoxication and identify which of the aforementioned neurocognitive components are most strongly associated with alcohol, cannabis or co-use. We will also compare relative predictive strength of EEG measures and traditional roadside intoxication measures (balance, blood-THC levels, blood-alcohol concentration) to shed light on potential combinations of measures that may be able to accurately identify single-substance intoxication and co-use intoxication.

Alison Bauer

Dr. Alison Bauer

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Investigation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons resulting from vaped or dabbed cannabis/cannabis-derived products with known adverse health effects

According to the 2021 Health Kids Survey (CDPHE), among kids who use cannabis in Colorado, ~16% vape and ~22% dab cannabis. Cannabis vaping and electronic dabbing could lead to emissions of toxicants that are currently not tested, that are known to be present in cannabis smoke, and that are known to cause harmful effects, such as carcinogenicity and adverse lung and cardiovascular effects. One class of these toxicants are the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) that are regulated by the EPA, and of which, many are classified as carcinogens. PAHs are produced by the incomplete combustion of organic material, have been detected inemissions from e-cigarettes, in e-liquids, and in some CBD oils. In addition, terpenes, another common component of cannabis, can produce PAHs when dabbed at high temperatures. Thus, PAHs are already a public health concern, and we will investigate the potential generation of PAHs from vaping or electronic dabbing of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, especially those with high terpene concentrations. This innovative research will be a partnership between academic researchers in several schools at the University of Colorado Anschutz (ColoradoSPH and School of Pharmacy) and Kaycha Laboratories, a national cannabis testing facility, to test samples of vaped or dabbed cannabis products with different concentrations of terpenes for the EPA 16 priority PAHs. These studies will include measuring PAH production at increased vaping/dabbing temperatures (up to 1000oF) as well as exploratory experiments to discover unknown metabolites in high temperature vaping/dabbing condensates. This cutting-edge research can be used to inform policy makers on health-based regulations or guidelines on temperature capabilities of these devices.

David Root

Dr. David Root

University of Colorado, Boulder

Identifying the neuronal cell-types responsible for the rewarding and aversive properties of THC

Marijuana is among the most widely used psychoactive substances across the world. The active ingredient in marijuana, Δ9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has rewarding qualities and some individuals will become addicted to using it. THC has aversive properties as well at higher doses. On the one hand, this might limit addiction susceptibility, but on the other hand may reduce patient compliance when THC is used for medicinal purposes. The neurobiological mechanisms that underlie the rewarding or aversive properties of THC are not completely understood. Our primary goal is to identify which neurons in the brain’s “reward center”, the ventral tegmental area, are affected by THC, how these neurons are physiologically altered by THC, and the necessity of these neurons for the rewarding or aversive properties of THC.


Dr. Jessica Prenni, Co PI Dr. Tiffany Weir 

Colorado State University, Fort Collins

Examination of the bi-directional interactions between phytocannabinoids and a human-associated gut microbiota

In recent decades, the gut microbiome has emerged as a critical regulator of inflammation and immunity in humans and has been associated with the development of numerous chronic diseases. Diet is one of the most critical regulators of gut microbiota composition and function. The major goal of this proposal is to explore microbe-phytocannabinoid interactions in the context of both balanced and imbalanced (as observed in obesity and chronic disease states) human microbiomes. Our secondary goal is to examine how gut microbial metabolism of phytocannabinoids in our model system impacts gut barrier function and inflammatory profiles. Successful completion of this project will generate fundamental knowledge around how phytocannabinoids modulate the gut microbiome and provide proof-of- concept and preliminary data for exploring interindividual differences in phytocannabinoid metabolism that can be leveraged in future human clinical studies utilizing phytocannabinoids for reducing both intestinal and systemic inflammation. Long-term outcomes of this research will provide much-needed information that can pave the way for intentional use of phytocannabinoids to treat intestinal disorders and other conditions that are linked through compromised intestinal barrier function and the microbiota-gut-brain axis.


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Dr. Nicole Tartaglia 

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Endocannabinoids in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Changes with Cannabidiol (CBD) treatment

Children with autism often struggle with behavioral challenges including irritability, anxiety, attention deficits, aggressive behaviors or self-injurious behaviors.  Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring substances in the human body that bind to cannabinoid receptors and have actions across the body including significant effects on brain and behavior. Early studies in autism have suggested differences in the endocannabinoid system. Treatment with cannabidiol (CBD) extracted from the cannabis plant has shown some early promise for treatment of behavioral difficulties in autism, and the CASCADE study is an ongoing placebo-controlled trial of CBD in autistic children at Children’s Hospital Colorado.  In this project we will compare levels of 14 different endocannabinoids and the primary enzymes that regulate them in autistic children 4-17 years of age from the CASCADE study to nonautistic children in the same age range. Further, we will study changes in the endocannabinoid system in autistic children after treatment with CBD, and also explore the endocannabinoid profile of autistic children who had a positive response to CBD treatment to help make better recommendations related to which autistic children might respond best to CBD treatment.

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