Thursday, April 05, 2007

Could pot ease MS progress, not just symptoms?

If a couple of stories on PR services are correct, the new issue of Nature Medicine will report that researchers believe that cannabis could protect against nerve damage, thereby slowing the progression of disability. Snip:
Cannabis works because it stimulates molecules known as cannabinoid receptors within the body. The group had previously reported that THC could alleviate disease symptoms, and also save nerves from the damaging effects of the disease - thus potentially, via the cannabinoid receptor CB1, slowing down the development of progressive disability. They had not previously examined the influence of cannabinoids on immune aspects of the disease.

Now their most recent study has successfully separated the roles of cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 on neurons and T cells, and investigated their effect in controlling central nervous system autoimmunity. It showed that CB1 receptor expression by nerves in the brain, but not T cells, could suppress the development of an experimental MS-like disease, by stimulating the release of anti-inflammatory molecules, whilst in contrast direct stimulation of CB2 receptors by T cells was also able to control inflammation associated with the condition. This suggests that cannabis-like drugs may have the potential to block the autoimmune response which drives disease development.

The researchers also say that it might be possible to get the neuroprotective benefit from THC without the high associated with stimulating the CB1 receptors. Dang.

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