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IACM-Bulletin of January 17, 2010


IACM — In commemoration of Dr. Ester Fride

It is with great sadness that the IACM informs their readers that Ester Fride, the Israeli scientist who showed that a newborn mammal cannot suckle and survive without a functional endocannabinoid system, died on New Year's Day at the age of 56. The cause was lung cancer, diagnosed in July, 2008. Dr. Fride, a professor at the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel, was the first awardee of the IACM Award for Basic Research in 2005.

In a very personal letter the chairman of the IACM, Ethan Russo, wrote: "It is perhaps the greatest compliment that one can make to a friend that has left us too early, that although we are grief-stricken with their loss, the more pervasive feeling is one of enrichment that we were lucky enough to walk with her in shared experiences and thereby be enriched in our own lives."

In the future the IACM Award on Basic Research will be called "Ester Fride Award".

USA — New Jersey becomes the 14th state to legalize the medical use of cannabis

On 11 January the New Jersey Legislature approved a bill that would make the state the 14th in the USA, but one of the few on the East Coast, to legalize the use of cannabis to help patients with chronic illnesses. The measure, which would allow patients diagnosed with severe illnesses like cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis to have access to cannabis grown and distributed through state-monitored dispensaries, was passed by the General Assembly by 48-14 and the State Senate by 25-13.

Governor Jon S. Corzine has said he would sign it into law. Supporters said that within nine months, patients with a prescription for cannabis from their doctors should be able to obtain it at one of six dispensaries. New Jersey's law is regarded as one of the most restrictive medical cannabis laws in the USA because it would permit doctors to prescribe it for only a set list of serious, chronic illnesses. The law would also forbid patients from growing their own cannabis and from using it in public, and it would regulate the drug under the strict conditions used to track the distribution of medically prescribed opiates. Patients would be limited to two ounces (57 grams) of cannabis per month.

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(Source: New York Times of 11 January 2010)

Science — Cannabidiol enhances the anti-cancer effects of THC on human brain cancer cells

According to research at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco cannabidiol (CBD) increased the inhibitory effects of dronabinol (THC) on human brain cancer cell proliferation and survival. The two natural cannabinoids were tested on two glioblastoma cells lines. THC and CBD acted synergistically to inhibit cell proliferation. The treatment of glioblastoma cells with both compounds led to significant modulations of the cell cycle, induction of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and apoptosis (programmed cell death).

There were specific changes that were not observed with either compound individually, indicating that the signal transduction pathways affected by the combination treatment were unique. Researcher concluded that these "results suggest that the addition of cannabidiol to delta-9-THC may improve the overall effectiveness of delta-9-THC in the treatment of glioblastoma in cancer patients."

(Source: Marcu JP, Christian RT, Lau D, Zielinski AJ, Horowitz MP, Lee J, Pakdel A, Allison J, Limbad C, Moore DH, Yount GL, Desprez PY, McAllister SD.Cannabidiol enhances the inhibitory effects of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol on human glioblastoma cell proliferation and survival. Mol Cancer Ther 2010;9(1):180-9.)

News in brief

USA — California

A proposal to legalize and tax cannabis in California was approved by an important committee of the Assembly on 12 January, but it is not expected to get further consideration by the Legislature until next year. Backers hailed the committee's action as historic because it represented the first approval of a proposal to legalize cannabis by a legislative institution in the USA since nearly 100 years. The legislation would allow those who are at least 21 years old to possess up to an ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis for recreational use. (Source: Los Angeles Times of 12 January 2010)

Holland — Coffee shops

A plan to transform cannabis-vending coffee shops near the borders into private clubs from January 1 has been postponed indefinitely for further study, a Dutch official said on 4 January. "We need to finalise our preparations before we can put the project into operation," Petro Hermans, a project officer for the city of Maastricht, told the media. The mayors of Maastricht and seven other municipalities in the Limburg province announced last May that about 30 coffee shops within their borders would become private members' clubs from this year. (Source: AFP of 4 January 2010)

Science — Gateway theory

A large international working group analysed data from the World Health Organization on surveys carried out in 17 countries on different continents. The data did not support the gateway theory according to which the use of certain drugs (cannabis, tobacco, etc.) leads to the use of harder drugs, which "implies that successful efforts to prevent use of specific 'gateway' drugs may not in themselves lead to major reductions in the use of later drugs." (Source: Degenhardt L, et al. Drug Alcohol Depend, 2010 Jan 7. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science — Sleep

According to research at the University of Mexico acute and subchronic administration of the endocannabinoids anandamide or oleamide increases a sleep phase called REM sleep (REM = Rapid Eye Movement) in rats. This effect was mediated by CB1 receptors. Vividly recalled dreams mostly occur during REM sleep. (Source: Herrera-Solís A, et al. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 2010 Jan 6. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science — Immune system

According to research at the University of Gdansk, Poland, the natural cannabinoid cannabidiol influences the immune system in rats. Repeated treatment reduced the number of T cells and B cells and enhanced non-specific antiviral and antitumour immune response related to natural killer cells (NK cells) and natural killer T cells (NKT cells). (Source: Ignatowska-Jankowska B, et al. J Physiol Pharmacol 2009;60 Suppl 3:99-103.)

Science — Diabetes

According to research at the University of Turin, Italy, a CB1 receptor antagonist (AM251) ameliorates the loss of proteins by the kidneys in diabetic mice. Scientists demonstrated that CB1 receptors are increased in certain cells of the kidneys in experimental type 1 diabetes. (Source: Barutta F, et al. Diabetes, 2010 Jan 12. [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science — Male fertility

Research at the University of Calabria, Italy, with human sperm suggests that the blockade of the CB1 receptor by the CB1 receptor antagonist rimonabant improves sperm motility and viability and induces the acquisition of fertilizing ability in sperm. (Source: Aquila S, et al. Br J Pharmacol, 2010 Jan 8. [Electronic publication ahead of print])