Parkinson’s Disease, Pain, And Obesity May Be Helped By Marijuana-Like Compounds

A new animal research has indicated that marijuana-like compounds could aid a bevy of debilitating conditions, ranging from brain disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease, to pain and obesity.

Researchers in the past have determined that the main active chemicals in the drug marijuana produce a variety of effects by connecting to specific sites on nerve cells, called cannabinoid receptors.

“Understanding how marijuana and the brain’s own natural cannabinoid system works is helping researchers design new medicines,” says cannabinoid expert Daniele Piomelli, PhD, of the University of California in Irvine. “It’s believed that the controlled therapies that come out of this research might provide select benefits to patients while avoiding some of the unwanted effects seen with the drug.”

California Pacific Medical Center research points to the promise of marijuana-like treatments for those with the fatal brain disorder ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “Our research indicates that select marijuana compounds, including THC, significantly slow the disease process and extend the life of mice with ALS,” says study author Mary Abood, PhD. “The only FDA approved drug for ALS, riluzole, extends life on average by about two months,” says Abood. “Evidence from our study suggests that a marijuana-based therapy could create a much greater effect, perhaps extending life by three years or more.” “We found that treatment with THC delayed disease progression by seven days and extended survival by six days in the mouse model,” says Abood. “This corresponds to three years in human terms.”

It was also indicated by the results that combination of THC and cannabidiol further delays disease progression.

“For the first time, our research shows the neuroprotective value of marijuana-like compounds in a well-established animal model of Parkinson’s disease,” says study author Andrea Giuffrida, PhD, of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. “There are therapies that can help replenish depleted levels of dopamine and provide symptomatic relief, but none can reverse, prevent, or delay the progression of Parkinson’s disease,” says Giuffrida. “Our research shows that marijuana-like compounds may be able to answer this need. “We found that the brains of mice treated with the marijuana-like compound were almost indistinguishable from the brains of healthy mice,” says Giuffrida. “We found that the combination of a marijuana-like compound with either the mild pain medication ibuprofen or rofecoxib provides more pain relief than each of them given alone,” says study author Pierre Beaulieu, MD, PhD, of the University of Montreal in Canada.

Society for Neuroscience