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IACM-Bulletin of February 19, 2006


Science — THC protects heart cells in the case of lowered oxygen supply

Israelian researchers at the Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan demonstrated that THC protects heart cells (cardiomyocytes) against the damage caused by hypoxia (reduced oxygen concentration in the blood) in experimental studies. Pre-treatment of cultures of cardiomyocytes with THC for 24 hours prevented leakage of LDH induced by hypoxia. Leakage of LDH (lactate dehydrogenase) from cells is a sign of cell damage.

This protective effects of THC was mediated by the CB2 receptor. CB2 receptor activation by THC induced the production of nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide signals the smooth muscles of blood vessels to relax, thus dilating the artery and increasing blood flow. This underlies the action of nitroglycerin and other drugs used in the treatment of heart disease, since these compounds are converted to nitric oxide in the body.

Researchers noted that THC also "probably pre-trains the cardiomyocytes to hypoxic conditions." They concluded that their research "demonstrates that THC has beneficial effects on cardiac cells and supports the consideration of marijuana for specific medical uses."

(Source: Shmist YA, Goncharov I, Eichler M, Shneyvays V, Isaac A, Vogel Z, Shainberg A. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol protects cardiac cells from hypoxia via CB2 receptor activation and nitric oxide production. Mol Cell Biochem 2006;283(1-2):75-83)

News in brief

Italy — Drug laws

On 8 February the Italian parliament adopted a drug law that abolished the separation of hard and soft drugs. According to the new law trafficking and possession of small amounts of drugs may be punished by prison. Minor drug offences will be punished by a fine, revocation of the driving licence or passport. (Source: Basler Zeitung of 8 February 2006)

Science — Glaucoma

A synthetic cannabinoid (WIN55212-2) and the endocannabinoid anandamide induced relaxation of the artery that supplies blood to the retina. This effect was mediated by the CB1 receptor. Since one cause of glaucoma may be reduced blood supply, not only the reduction of intraocular pressure but also the improvement of circulation by cannabinoids may be helpful in the disease. (Source: Romano MR and Lograno MD. Br J Pharmacol 2006 Feb 13; [electronic publication ahead of print])

Science — Neuroprotection

A synthetic cannabinoid (HU210) reduced nerve damage that was caused by the chemical agent peroxynitrite. This effect was not caused by the stimulation of the secretion of the body's own corticosterone but by a direct action of the cannabinoid. Authors conclude that the beneficial effects of cannabinoids on nerve damage associated with multiple sclerosis are achieved by their direct action. (Source: Yang C et al. Brain Res 2006 Feb 10; [electronic publication ahead of print])

Science — Migraine

Researchers found that the endocannabinoid system was altered in women suffering from migraine. Anandamide levels were reduced in their blood due to increased degradation of the endocannabinoid by platelets. No changes were found in men suffering from migraine compared to healthy controls. Scientists conclude that the reduced anandamide concentration "might reduce the pain threshold and possibly explain the prevalence of migraine in women." (Source: Cupini L et al. Cephalalgia 2006;26(3):277-81)

Science — Schizophrenia

In this 12-month study changes in psychiatric symptoms and substance use of patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders were investigated. 147 patients were assessed at baseline and followed prospectively for 12 months. 50.3% of patients were also diagnosed with substance abuse, 35.6% with alcohol and 35.1% with cannabis use disorders. Substance abuse did not influence symptoms of schizophrenia during the course of the study. However, ongoing substance abuse appeared to be associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety in patients with schizophrenia. (Source: Margolese HC et al. Schizophr Res 2006 Feb 3; [electronic publication ahead of print])