CBD Clues for ALS Treatment

Yet another study shows the potential usefulness of marijuana’s cannabinoids to treat ALS.

Cannabidiol Modulates Genes Linked with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is the partial title of a new article accepted for publication by the Journal of Cellular Biology.  ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a miserable neuromuscular condition, terribly disabling and nearly always fatal. Like other degenerative, inflammatory diseases, ALS is associated with a demon’s brew of “oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and excitotoxicity.”

Perhaps this century’s best know sufferer of ALS is physicist and cosmologist Steven Hawking. Defying the odds, Hawking has lived with this disease for nearly half a century. The ALS pathology has destroyed nerves controlling his muscles. As the nerves wasted, so did the muscles, confining Hawking to a wheelchair and robbing him of speech. But while these motor neurons have decayed, the cerebral neurons in his brain have soared into realms of thought few other humans have attained. He ponders, and rigorously researches, the biggest questions of space and time, black holes, and possible alien life. He cannot stand, yet he stands on the shoulders of Einstein, Copernicus, and Galileo.

A desire to conquer this cruel disease recently inspired many a Facebook video of a volunteer enduring drenching in the ALS Bucket Challenge. Perhaps they may find another glimmer of hope in this research.

Intriguingly, this in vitro study shows that CBD, or cannabidiol, modulates gene expression in stem cells (human gingiva-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (hGMSCs)) “connected with ALS pathology.”

The researchers gave reason for their research choice of CBD in their abstract:

Cannabidiol, a non-psychotrophic cannabinoid, has been demonstrated as a potent anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agent in neurological preclinical models.

The research demonstrates yet another way CBD and other molecules from cannabis deliver innovative new tools for medical researchers and hope for those suffering neurodegenerative disorders.

 

“Concussion” Is Teachable Moment For Cannabis And Brain Trauma

Will Smith - Concussion

Will Smith – Concussion

Cannabis reduces traumatic brain injury!

Far too few know this benefit of medical marijuana use and treatment. The general public, the NFL, and coaches across the country may soon get that opportunity.

The SONY movie, “Concussion,” examining brain trauma in the NFL, presents a unique opportunity to educate about benefits of cannabis for traumatic brain injury. Will Smith plays a forensic pathologist who discovers the chilling extent of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in NFL players, setting them up for depression, dementia, and early death.

The Christmas 2015 movie has already elevated the issue of traumatic brain injury to the public and NFL players. Although the movie does not address how cannabis can minimize brain injuries, the time will be ripe for such education.

Dr. Lester Grinspoon may be the best educator on this timely issue.

This a retired Harvard psychiatrist and pioneering authority on marijuana’s medical benefits has already specifically addressed the issue of CTE in the NFL, when he petitioned  the organization to fund research into cannabis and brain trauma. Dr. Grinspoon has been educating on the positive health effects of cannabis for decades, since it helped his son with cancer in the 1970s. He has written a dozen books, several on medical marijuana, calling it The Forbidden Medicine.”  He has editorialized in The New York Times that marijuana is a “wonder drug“, where he lists the truly wondrous medical benefits provided, including relief from neuropathic pain. He writes:

If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

 

Cannabis and Brain Injury

Head injury and traumatic brain accident. Fotolia

Head injury and traumatic brain accident. Fotolia

Much of the research showing the protective effects of cannabinoids against traumatic brain injury comes from Israel. Studies reported in 2013 in this small, high-tech country showed that THC and similar cannabinoids can reduce injury both before and after trauma.

Irony alert: This research showing the brain-protective benefits was done at the Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases. Sheldon Adelson, that is, the American right-wing gambling billionaire and major benefactor to Israel. Ironically, he put several million dollars into a 2014 Florida campaign to PREVENT medical marijuana in that state. With the help of his money, Floridians were denied the benefits of medical cannabis, such as reducing brain injury and dementia, discovered in his own center! WTF?

Other Israeli researchers concentrated on 2-AG, the human body’s own cannabinoid molecule, along with anandamide, that fits lock-and-key into the same receptors activated by plant cannabinoid in marijuana. They discuss how cannabinoids work on the biological and molecular levels to reduce traumatic brain injury (TBI) and with it minimize the disabling disease CTE. The brain trauma of a concussive hit does not all take place and finish with the hit. In the hours following, inflammation is a destructive factor, caused in part by cytokines, cell messengers, such as the dangerous TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IL-1beta. 2-AG also reduces blood brain barrier (BBB) permeability, another neuroprotective effect.

More ways cannabinoids reduce traumatic brain injury.

Head trauma, such as a massive acceleration/deceleration of a head during helmet to pad collision, common in NFL football, begins a lengthy neurological response process, often inflicting more harm to the brain. This response is primarily inflammatory. For a specific site, even the whole brain, the culprit is “excitotoxicity, the pathological process by which nerve cells are damaged or killed by excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters such as glutamate and similar substances.” This neurotransmitter overload degrades and kills brain cells, and they die a messy death, creating further toxicity in the form of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), nasty molecules that damage cell structures and your DNA.

So as soon as a football player takes a concussive hit, from then for hours, and longer,  the resulting excitotoxicity attacks neurons and other cells:

  • Dangerous cytokines deliver massive numbers of inflammatory molecules.
  • Glutamate increases wildly, along with other neurotransmitters.
  • NMDA receptors are activated by excess glutamate which causes a flow of calcium and sodium into cells, generating free radicals.
  • Dying mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse release toxic Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), bully molecules swinging dangerous free radical electrons, and smashing up nerve cells.
  • Vasoconstriction reduces blood flow to the brain.

Amazingly, cannabinoids in cannabis exert a healing calm to excitotoxicity and help reduce neurological damage in all areas.

  • Antioxidants action: Even without activating the  endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids themselves are potent anti-oxidants, the perfect remedy to the oxidative stress, as they neutralize these rowdy ROS molecules.
  • Retrograde signalling, found only in the endocannabinoid system, calms neuronal firings with “backwards” retrograde signaling across synapses to reduce nerve cell activity.
  • Apoptosis, cell death is reduced, lowering the resulting volume of inflammatory molecules.
  • Cannabinoids promote vasodilation, restoring healing blood flow to the brain by counteracting the endothelin (ET-1)-induced vasoconstriction that aggravates brain damage.
  • Anti-inflammatory actions are all neuroprotective. And they result in reduced brain swelling.

So, obviously, the investigation of cannabis in reducing traumatic brain injury and CTE in football players and sports participants who suffer concussions presents a life-saving opportunity. Their are ample reasons for undertaking this research and hopefully the NFL will take up Dr. Grinspoon’s challenge to fund it.

First, do no harm. The NFL’s knee jerk mandate of prohibiting cannabis use by players may be doing huge harms by denying them the medicine that can help prevent, treat, and minimize injuries from the brain trauma they suffer as players.

Beyond that, what can we do as fans of football, and for some, as parent of young players, to help get the NFL to sponsor this vitally needed research into concussion and cannabis?.

Copyright © 2015  Don Fitch

 

Cannabis Fights Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Cannabinoids may well be helpful in slowing and preventing the damage to the human brain known as Alzheimer ’s disease and other dementia.

With properties that help protect nerve cells, especially brain cells, it is reasonable that cannabinoids might be useful in preventing and treating insidious AD.

English: Diagram of how microtubules desintegr...

English: Diagram of how microtubules desintegrate with Alzheimer’s disease

As with other degenerative diseases associated with aging, AD is of special importance to baby boomers and aging populations throughout the world.The number of people so afflicted may triple over the next half century. All the degenerative diseases are cruel, but AD can inflict soul-robbing pathology into families and relationships. With AD comes a slow breakdown of memories and then personality.

Plaques and Tangles

Central to this damage seems to be the formation of fibrous, knotted senile plaques in the brain. Inside these plaques, inflammation festers. Chronic inflammation is dangerous anywhere; it is especially destructive when microglial cells, the brain’s protectors, themselves become sources of inflammation right in the brain.

Two protein substances clog the brains of those afflicted with AD. Remarkably, cannabinoids appear to provide protection against both these threats to our brains and minds.

  1. Amyloid plaques – composed of strands of protein, beta-amyloid peptides. These so-called senile plaques are a clear marker for Alzheimer ’s disease.
  2. Neurofibrillary tangles – composed of protein microtubules, tau.

THC Blocking Plaques

Fresh research reported in late 2006 clarifies some of the mechanisms that make THC such a powerful anti-Alzheimer’s disease agent. San Diego’s Scripps Research Institute, specifically its Worm Institute of Research and Medicine is the source of new findings about the ability of THC to block the formation of plaques in the brain. In test tube trials, THC shows a remarkable ability to stop the formation of these personality-robbing plaques. THC, the San Diego researchers found, inhibited the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, a substance that plays a key role in inducing β amyloid plaques.

Side-by-side comparisons with two pharmaceutical drugs currently on the market (and inexorably advertised during television news) are startling. THC, the primary cannabinoid from the source plant cannabis. was over four times more effective than one of the drugs, and roughly 14 times more effective than the other.

At the molecular level, THC bound to the acetylcholinesterase molecule, preventing the enzyme’s key role in creation of amyloid aggregation. Institute director and study coauthor Kim Janda was quite effusive at a 2006 release:

Although our study is far from final, it does show that there is a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which THC may directly affect the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Lead researcher Janda went on to say,

While we are certainly not advocating the use of illegal drugs, these findings offer convincing evidence that THC possesses remarkable inhibitory qualities, especially when compared to [Alzheimer’s drugs] currently available to patients.

 

Look for Part 2 soon at Your Brain on Bliss

 

Cannabinoids Combat Alzheimer’s Disease

It may be that small clumps of beta-amyloid protein begin causing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by destroying the synapses between brain cells well before they form the plaques that have been associated with this memory-eroding and personality-robbing disorder. New research out of Stanford University reported in Science Digest (Scientists Reveal How Beta-Amyloid May Cause Alzheimer’s) found that these small bits of beta-amyloid protein clump together and, as bunches, bind with receptors on neurons.  This displaces connections with other neurons, destroying the synapses between that, in very real ways, make us who we are. Too many synapses destroyed  and soon you can’t remember Uncle Bob. Or your spouse.

© freshidea - Fotolia.com

© freshidea – Fotolia.com

Although in a way this is bad news–damage is taking place even before the plaque formation long thought to be the problem–the good news is that the finding may point to ways to help prevent the cruel disease with earlier intervention. Even better news is that a whole new class of preventive and therapeutic agents, cannabinoids, have been found to be very useful in curbing the ravages of Alzheimer”s disease. Cannabinoids are compounds that modulate specific receptors on brain cells, immune cells and other cells in the body. Three types of cannabinoids  exist: They can be produced by our bodies, by the plant cannabis, and synthetically in the laboratory. Last year Spanish researchers documented in the Journal of Neuroinflammation how cannabinoids are neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory agents with therapeutic potential,

Their research, entitled Prolonged oral cannabinoid administration prevents neuroinflammation, lowers β-amyloid levels and improves cognitive performance in Tg APP 2576 mice. The Spaniards found that oral dosing with cannabinoids “ameliorates cognitive performance, decreases neuroinflammation and Aβ levels, likely by increasing its transport to the periphery.”  The cannabinoid treatment boosted memory and cognition, reduced brain inflammation and helped carry away the beta-amyloid tangles. What’s not to like! Yet again have cannabinoids been found to have powerful and beneficial medical effects, providing neuroprotection against one of the more cruel diseases to strike modern humans.

The Spanish research investigated synthetic cannabinoids, but earlier research found powerful AD preventive effects from THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Astoundingly, researchers found when “compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of Aβ aggregation, and this study provides a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which cannabinoid molecules may directly impact the progression of this debilitating disease.”  The enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) promotes beta-amyloid clumping; THC prevents this clumping by binding with receptors on AChE molecules. Some pharmaceutical drugs use the same tactic, but THC was far more effective! On another AD front, researchers in 2013 declared that deficiency in density of CB1 receptors, the receptors activated by THC to produce psychoactivity along with a host of preventive, curative and palliative effects, resulted in worsened AD symptoms.

Fear of losing their memory and personalities to cruel diseases like Alzheimer’s is the number one anxiety of those over 50 years of age. This group should be aware that cannabinoids, even THC, can provide protection for brain cells help stave off dementia-producing inflammation and beta-amyloid clumping.

Copyright © Don Fitch

Protecting the brain with cannabinoid receptor activation.

Cannabinoid receptors, small protein structures in the cell walls of neurons (and other cells) have been shown positive effects in protecting the brain from degeneration. Now, new research out of Bonn, Germany confirms how important CB1 receptors and the activation of these receptors, are to the well-being of our aging brains. Science Daily‘s write up of the research was entitled, Bodyguard for the Brain: Researchers Identify Mechanism That Seems to Protect Brain from Aging. The bodyguard mentioned is none other than the CB1 receptor, which is activated by endocannabinoids such as anandamide and also by the plant cannabinoid, THC.  Activation of the CB1 receptors helped protect the brain from inflammation, memory loss, and learning deficiency. It prevented nerve cell loss in the critical hippocampus structure. These were mouse studies but with strong correlation to human learning, aging, memory and dementia.

Seemingly, this research would have important implications for medical cannabis. One of the main effects of  cannabis and its cannabinoids such as THC is the activation of these CB receptors in the brain. This research would imply that such activation provides a neuroprotective, anti-aging effect.

Another implication would include caution towards the use of CB1 receptor antagonists and/or CB1 receptor inverse agonist. Rimonabant, is just such a compound, acting as a blocker and perhaps inverse activator of CB1 receptors. Five years ago there was great hope that this “anti-marijuana” would make an effective weight loss drug, by causing the “anti-munchies.” But just as cannabis provides a mild uplifting “high,” this drug predictably caused the opposite effect, that is depression. It failed approval by the FDA and was later removed in some European markets for its depressive (and sometimes nauseating) effects. The new German research should spur caution about the possible brain degenerative effects of blocking CB receptors.

Regarding the importance of the identification of the CB1 receptor in brain neuroprotection, one of the lead German researchers noted: “The root cause of aging is one of the secrets of life. This study has begun to open the door to solving this enigma.”

Say it ain’t so, Sanjay. Next Surgeon General down on medical cannabis.

Yet another heart breaker for drug policy reform and medical cannabis in the form of Obama’s Surgeon General. CNN reports Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical coorespondent has been asked by Barack Obama to be the new Surgeon General.

In many ways, Dr. Gupta is an excellent choice. Brilliant, telegenic, a neurosurgeon, huge recognition and an excellent communicator. Yet more important, and still rare for most physicians, Sanjay Gupta focuses on preventive health care, especially on health-enhancing or damaging behaviors. Morbidity and mortality in the USA are much more functions of our everyday behaviors than they are functions of the entire medical care system. How healthy you look and feel, how vital you really are depends chiefly on your daily habits of exercise, nutrition and other health related behaviors. Gupta realizes this, as evidence by his CNN series on obesity, exercise and other key health topics.

Fixing the American health care system, especially as it totters from the oncoming onslaught of Type II diabetics, will require a totally new health care vision, one based on prevention, exercise and self-care. The entire system would be revolutionized by each American walking 10,000 steps a day, a figure that appears to be a requirement for good body composition, healthy blood sugar levels, and basic vitality.  Dr. Sanjay Gupta just might be a Surgeon General who could help this come to pass. Maybe he could even help Barack quit smoking cigarettes, another of his passionate causes, and killer of 440,000 Americans each year.

This makes all the more disappointing the possible Surgeon General’s ignorant take on medical cannabis. He spelled out his unfortunate philosophy in TIME Magazine, on January 8, 2009. His article, Why I Would Vote No On Pot, discussed then up-coming medical cannabis initiatives in Colorado and Nevada (both passed).  Paradoxically, Sanjay starts out by stating recent ways cannabis has been found to be good for your, even asserting, “THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for the high, can help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. (In fact, it seems to block the formation of disease-causing plaques better than several mainstream drugs).”

Yet somehow, in spite of being a neurosurgeon touting the effectiveness of this plant substance as a neuron and brain protector, he doubles back advises readers in Colorado and Nevada to vote no, to vote away their medical choice on this issue. He talks quite a bit about the smoke as hazard, an issue of ever-decreasing importance in the age of the vaporizer. His urging of the no vote is also a vote FOR continued damage to the American citizenry by enforcement of cruel, useless laws. See Austin, Texas Attorney Jamie Spencer, who commented on his blog in 2006 at the release of the  of Gupta TIME article. Spencer notes, “Voting “No on Pot”, as Dr. Gupta calls it, means more tax dollars spent incarcerating casual marijuana users. That’s it, end of story. Neither initiative will force Dr. Gupta or anyone else to use marijuana.”

In the last 20 years, the discovery of the endocannabinoid receptor system and molecules produced in our bodies to activate these receptors represents a major step forward in our understanding of the human body and its working. Health care in the 21st Century will be revolutionized by these findings and the potential they portend for medical cannabis. Americans deserve a Surgeon General who understands and will help end the goverment’s war against a plant used as medication for millenia and against those Americans who find it of medical benefit. In the article Gupta whines talking points from US government agencies. One statistic he ignores, annual US deaths from cannabis = zero.

Dr. Gupta, after your TIME article, Coloradans and Nevadan disagreed and went ahead and voted for freedom of choice of medical cannabis as they have in nearly every state when given the opportunity. As Surgeon General, please do not scheme to take that choice away from them, and those in a dozen of other states who have voted to assert this basic personal medical freedom.