Marijuana Compound Could Defend Against Diabetic Retinopathy

  • Researchers have revealed that compound found in marijuana, cannabidiol, would not make you high but it may help keep your eyes healthy, if you are a diabetic.

    Dr. Gregory I. Liou, molecular biologist at the Medical College of Georgia said early studies indicate cannabidiol works as a consummate multi-tasker for protecting the eye from growing a plethora of leaky blood vessels, the hallmark of diabetic retinopathy.

    “We are studying the role of cannabinoid receptors in our body and trying to modulate them so we can defend against diabetic retinopathy,” Dr. Liou says.

    The leading cause of blindness in working-age adults, diabetic retinopathy, affects approximately 16 million Americans.

    Cannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body and endogenous cannabinoids are produced for acting on them. “Their function is very different from organ to organ but in the central nervous system, cannabinoid receptors are responsible for the neutralization process that should occur after a nerve impulse is finished,” says Dr. Liou.

    Test studies by others and pilot studies by Dr. Liou in diabetic animal models revealed that cannabidiol works to interrupt essentially all these destructive points of action.

    “What we believe cannabidiol does is go in here as an antioxidant to neutralize the toxic superoxides. Number two, it inhibits the self-destructive system and allows the self-produced endogenous cannabinoids to stay there longer by inhibiting the enzyme that destroys them.”

    Cannabidiol also helps in keeping microglial cells from turning on nerve cells by inhibiting cannabinoid receptors on microglial cells, which are at least partially responsible for their ability to destroy rather than support the cells.

    “Cannabinoids are trying to ease the situation on both sides. They help save the neuron and, at the same time, make sure the microglial cells stay in microglial form. How good do you want a drug to be?” Dr. Liou says.

    Co-authors on the study include Dr. Azza B. El-Remessy, MCG Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology; Drs. Mohamed Al-Shabrawey, Nai-Tse Tsai and Ruth B. Caldwell, MCG Vascular Biology Center; and Dr. Yousuf Khalifa, MCG Department of Ophthalmology.

    Medical College of Georgia

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