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Our body’s natural cannabinoid receptors may play an important role in reducing inflammation in Parkinson’s Disease (PD).
Parkinson’s disease patient showing a flexed walking posture pictured in 1892. Photo appeared in Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpètrière, vol. 5. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Once again, ground breaking cannabinoid research is announced by researchers at Madrid’s Complutense University. Chronic inflammation anywhere in our bodies is a destructive process; in the brain it is particularly insidious. “Inflammation is an important pathogenic factor in Parkinson’s disease (PD),” remind the Spanish researchers in this new study. Inflammation can “kill dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra and to enhance the dopaminergic denervation of the striatum.”
Among the many functions of your endocannabinoid system is control of inflammation., and more generally, protecting nerve cells (neuroprotection). Your cannabinoid system activates from interaction with your natural endocannabinoids such as anandamide. Plant cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, and synthesized research cannabinoids can also modulate your endocannabinoid system, through its receptors CB1 and CB2, (and other receptors and processes).
This new Spanish research focused on receptor CB2.
Unlike CB1 receptors which are found primarily in the outer layer of neurons in the brain and throughout the body, CB2 receptors are more associated with the immune system. This research looked at CB2 in brain cells, not in neurons, but in microglia support cells. About one out of seven of your total brain cells are these microglia immune cells; macrophage-like, they serve as a sensitive as house-keepers, removing damaged neurons and other waste material. When need be, microglial cells mount a powerful protective force against bacterial and other threats to your neurons.
The Spaniards write:
The cannabinoid type-2 (CB2) receptor has been investigated as a potential anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective target in different neurodegenerative disorders, but still limited evidence has been collected in PD. Here, we show for the first time that CB2 receptors are elevated in microglial cells recruited and activated at lesioned sites in the substantia nigra of PD patients compared to control subjects.
Given its antioxidant properties and its ability to activate CB(2) but to block CB(1) receptors, Δ(9)-THCV has a promising pharmacological profile for delaying disease progression in PD and also for ameliorating parkinsonian symptoms.
New British and Spanish research on one of cannabis’ cannabinoids show its great potential for treating Parkinson’s disease. The cannabinoid is the lesser known but hugely interesting THCV, aka Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. The molecule is present to varying decrees in different strains of cannabis, from trace amounts to a hefty proportion.
Unlike your own body’s cannabinoid anandamide, or its phyto(plant based)-cannabinoid cousin, THC, THCV does not activate CB1 receptors in your endocannbinoid regulatory system. Activation of these CB1 receptors, found mainly on nerve cells, is responsible for most of THC’s psychoactive effects and medical benefits. THC also activates CB2 receptors, found more on immune cells and thought responsible for some of cannabis’ beneficial effects on some autoimmune disorders. Like THC, THCV also binds with and activates these CB2 receptors. Like THC, THCV is a powerful antioxidant, capable of sopping up cell-killing free radicals. Unlike THC, THCV does not activate CB1 receptors. Instead, it blocks (serves as an antagonist to) the activation of the CB1 system. It may play a major role in future treatments of cardiometabolic diseases and obesity.
Spanish and British researchers investigated the effects of Delta-9-
tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) in an animal model of Parkinson’s
disease. They concluded that “given its antioxidant properties and
its ability to activate CB2 but to block CB1 receptors, Delta-9-THCV
has a promising pharmacological profile for delaying disease
progression in PD and also for ameliorating parkinsonian symptoms.” (Source: García C, et al. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Feb 16. [in press]).
The fact that the research was British and Spanish, not American, is telling. Americans are not allowed to research cannabis and are denied access to marijuana for research. The pathetic paucity of medical cannabis research in the USA is a literal crime against humanity, a function of politics of prohibition. Americans by the millions suffer untreated pain, blinding glaucoma and immobilizing Parkinson’s disease while all research is denied, decade after decade. Instead of following a science-based assessment (which would demand a rush to research medical cannabis), American science has been held hostage to authoritarian bureaucrats.