Emerging Neuroprotective Agents from Cannabinoids

Every component of the body is inherently related. When one organ fails or declines in health, another organ will follow. Liver failure, for instance, poses a dire health risk on it’s own. However, beyond the immediate, life-threatening aspects of toxins not being filtered out of the blood, damage to the brain is another physiological consequence. Toxins cause free radicals to build up, which leads to cell stress and eventual neuron death. This cellular damage translates into loss of memory, general confusion, and cognitive damage, which poses a serious impairment to quality of life. Unfortunately, liver issues cannot always be immediately solved, if they can be solved at all. In the meantime, this condition, called Hepatic Encephalopathy, should at least be minimized or ideally entirely prevented, to ensure patients mental health. Scientists have been searching for neuroprotective agents, or drugs that might enable cells to avoid damage caused by buildup of free radicals. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a known neuroprotector, meaning that the application of CBD decreases the amount of cell damage and death brought on by toxins. Researchers do not currently understand exactly how these neuroprotective effects are achieved. However, we do know that the normal cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are not involved. When receptor antagonists are applied, and those receptors are shut off, neuroprotective effects are still observed. Case closed, right? Why not use CBD as a neuroprotective medicine for serious health situations such as Hepatic Encephalopathy? This may indeed be one of the best options in present day,…

Sourcing CBD

Have you ever wondered where concentrated CBD comes from? In the United States, industrial hemp is now permitted under special circumstances, thanks to a 2014 U.S. Farm Bill which approves special grow programs. States like California and Colorado offer a legal pathway to growing smaller batches of medical cannabis for CBD production. CBD can also be legally produced synthetically without the plant at all with appropriate DEA approval. All three of these pathways represent avenues for legal CBD production in the United States. Assuming that the goal is to produce 100% pure CBD, these methods are all equivalent; the source has no impact. However, when CBD is initially extracted from a whole plant, terpenes and cannabinoids are extracted alongside and remain in the product. The greater the quality of the source plant, the greater and richer these terpenes and cannabinoids are, whereas synthetic CBD contains no additional molecules. Due to current cannabinoid research indicating the likelihood of synergistic effects of cannabinoids, we at Cornerstone feel that whole plant, high quality cannabis preparations of CBD are likely more effective medical solutions than pure or synthetic CBD. If it were purely medicinal cannabis advocates arguing for the effectiveness of whole-plant derived CBD preparations, we might simply dismiss this notion as financial bias. Of course medical cannabis dispensaries have incentive to advocate for medical cannabis-based products! Of course we’d rather see the CBD market in the hands of local providers vs. industrial giants. That is our bias. However, ultimately the conversation about the…

Real Life Cannabinoid Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

As a blog concerned with new developments in cannabinoid science, we tend to do a lot of writing about future treatments, or new scientific developments that may eventually lead to treatments. Part of the issue is that large-scale, clinical testing of new cannabinoid based medicine is still years away in a lot of areas, particularly in cancer-related fields. That’s why reading a good, new large-scale study is always exhilarating. In this case, a recent study from the University of Bari in Italy took a look at a large scale, real-world application of a THC/CBD oral spray in treating adults with treatment-resistant Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In the past, we’ve written about treating MS models via lab mice with THC and CBD, and also the theory behind that treatment. So being able to finally see how things play out in real life with real patients is particularly rewarding for us and is yet another confirmation of the efficacy of cannabis based treatments. To review, MS is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system is confused into turning against the body and attacking cells. In particular, MS is caused by the immune system stripping neurons of their outer protective linings, which normally prevent “signals” from being crossed or lost in the brain, both for conscious and unconscious tasks. This stripping eventually results in loss of physical mobility and function and can prevent patients from fulfilling active, healthy lives. Spasticity, which affects about 2/3rds of patients, is particularly problematic. Unfortunately, at this…

Retinal Health and Cannabis- “Seeing” the Difference

Glaucoma was one of the first applications identified for medical cannabis treatment and remains one of the most common medical reasons for prescription. Why? In the 1970’s initial slew of cannabis-centric research, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a finding that individuals who smoked cannabis experienced lower intra-ocular (inner-eye) pressure. This was one of the first significant physiological findings regarding the effect of smoking cannabis. However, more importantly, it seemed to be an answer to glaucoma, a disease in which excess fluid builds up in the eye, causing higher pressure and cell damage. As a result, the study was duplicated often, and the results upheld the initial conclusion that cannabis could be an effective solution. Unfortunately, cannabis research waned in popularity. Once cannabis was culturally cast in the same category as other recreational drugs, the idea that it would ever be prescribed legally for glaucoma lost traction. Fortunately, years later, as we experience a renaissance in both cannabis prescription and cannabis research, a new interest has arisen in the way the endocannabinoid system might be manipulated to treat retinal disease. The endocannabinoid system, as some readers may be familiar with, is the system of cannabinoid receptors, natural cannabinoids that bind to them, and all the enzymes facilitating that process that are found in humans and most mammals. Recently we’ve learned that cannabinoid receptors are more complex than we imagined. Aside from cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, vanilloid receptors (an entirely different chemical system), and orphan GPR-55 receptors are…

New Role for Cannabinoids in Diabetes Treatment

The endocannabinoid system is one of the biggest sleeper hits of modern science. Despite going ignored until the early 90’s, we’re discovering more and more how vital and essential this system of naturally produced cannabinoids, their receptors, and their enzymes are. From breast cancer pathogenesis to arthritis and pain treatment to neurological issue development, the endocannabinoid system is involved. For this reason, it should come as no surprise to readers that the endocannabinoid system has recently been found to play a role in the pancreas. Specifically, cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) is expressed in beta cells in the pancreas. The primary role of these beta cells is to produce and store insulin, the hormone that reduces blood sugar concentration. Lack of insulin leads to diabetes, which brings a host of related health issues. In multiple studies, CB1 receptors have been found to be able to trigger cell death of these beta cells. Thus, cannabinoid receptor regulation is likely essential to the control and pathogenesis of diabetes, and researchers aim to create new treatments by understanding this signaling. Ideally, researchers could stop beta cell death, preserve natural insulin levels, and therefore prevent or cure diabetes, rather than just supplying the body with externally-produced insulin. Toward that end, a team of researchers from various universities in South Korea has released a new study aimed to identify the mechanism of cannabinoid-mediated cell death in the pancreas. Before starting with animal studies, the team investigated the basic mechanics of cell death in a mouse pancreas…

Depression, Cannabis, and… Your Immune System?

Cannabis has long been known to be a mood improving substance. In fact, this quality has contributed to its use as a recreational drug. As a result, it’s not surprising to read that the endocannabinoid system, which controls our bodies’ responses to cannabis, is being investigated in connection to treating depression. What is surprising, however, is the specific way it seems to be involved. Readers might never suspect that the immune system and the endocannabinoid system might be cohorts in the genesis of depression. Wait, back up – the immune system? What does that have to do with depression? Apparently something large. First, recent meta-analyses of immune-related experiments provide strong support for a link between immune dysfunction and depression. Statistically speaking, patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) also show higher levels of several inflammatory signaling proteins. While this could simply indicate association rather than cause (for instance, simply that patients with malfunctioning immune systems have health consequences that lead to depression), the most interesting evidence here is that researchers have specifically observed a positive relationship between depressive symptoms and amount/dose of inflammatory molecules over a widespread population. The fact that depressive symptoms are dose-dependent to immune signaling molecules seems to suggest some sort of causality. Finally, patients suffering from chronic viral infections, who as a result have to take drugs like IFN-alpha (an immune and inflammation boosting cytokine), often develop depression at the onset of such medication with a rate upwards of 30 percent! Unfortunately, depression comes in many forms…

Soothing Migraine Headaches with Cannabis

Nearly everyone who’s used medical cannabis can relate to its ability to soothe headaches. From easing stress and tight forehead muscles to reducing body pain, cannabis naturally lends itself to being a headache cure. Yet, surprisingly, no clinical tests are being performed at this time to treat migraine patients with medical cannabis. In other words, while some doctors are already prescribing cannabis for recurring headaches, no large clinical studies on actual humans are being conducted. As readers may guess, this may have something to do with the difficulty of getting approval for human studies involving cannabis. In any case, the situation is now remarkably unusual; medical cannabis dispensaries sometimes have more access to medical information than physicians. Specifically, as a general physician, you may have the opportunity to prescribe cannabis to a number of patients, with only a handful of those seeking treatment for headaches. On top of that, after the prescription for medical cannabis, you can’t track what cannabis was used, how potent it was, where it came from, etc. A large part of the treatment data is inherently unknown by the physician, and getting patients to carefully record and report that data is difficult, further reducing the number of people who could realistically be involved in a study. In fact, busy, time-strapped patients may not even return after successfully treating their problems. Contrast this situation with that of a dispensary. At a medical cannabis dispensary, providers can keep a file on each patient, using purchases to record average…

Cannabis and Carcinoma Part II

Today we’re revisiting a topic: the use of the endocannabinoid system as a possible therapeutic target for cancer treatment. Last time, we discussed the ability of some cannabinoid molecules to trigger cell death in cancerous cells. In that article we were careful to note that those results did not necessarily equate to a cancer solution and more testing would need to be conducted. Since then, cancer research has continued to be a focal point of the endocannabinoid research community, so we’re pleased to be able to further the discussion. The leading cause of global cancer death is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HCC is the most common type of liver cancer and usually brought on by other illness or stress, such as viral infection or alcoholism. The survival rate is generally poor, as by the time tumors are noticed, they are generally too big to remove. In fact, liver transplant is usually the most effective approach. Unfortunately, livers have a waiting list and most cases of HCC occur in undeveloped countries where some sort of solution is desperately needed. At this point in time, researchers are testing all sorts of new chemicals and processes. Endocannabinoids, with receptors all along the immune system, represent a unique approach to a solution In earlier studies, the chemical WIN55,212-2 (WIN55), a synthetic cannabinoid which produces effects similar to the THC found in cannabis, has been shown to cause cell cycle arrest in the cancer cell line BEL7402 (carcinoma cells). Like THC, WIN55 actives CB1 receptors. Researchers…

CBD Salve May Have More Uses than Originally Thought

Topical cannabis preparations have been around since the dawn of civilization and have experienced a resurgence in popularity along with medical cannabis. Usually these salves and creams, which are rubbed into the skin directly, are intended to treat conditions directly below the skin. For instance, cannabis-derived salves are popular among those suffering from arthritis, who apply the cream directly to affected areas to reduce swelling. This method of administration is believed to be more effective for arthritis than oral administration and also avoids many of the otherwise psychoactive effects of cannabis. Of course, manufacturers of cannabis creams and salves are often liberal with claims of conditions the cream can help. For instance, some websites discuss the use of cannabis-derived cream to completely eradicate cancerous tumors or genetic diseases. At this stage of cannabis and cannabinoid research, many unknowns remain, so technically it is possible these claims are true. However, knowing what we know at this point in time, this is probably utter nonsense. To be fair, these manufacturers may have witnessed healing that happened in tandem to salve application and may honestly believe their claims. However, there is a stark difference between several personal observations about using a salve and the extensive laboratory testing needed to scientifically support those claims. Regardless, the question remains: what can cannabinoid salves and creams be used for? As it turns out, there may be an accidental shred of truth to over-zealous claims that the salve can solve more than topical issues. Recently, the DARU…

Using the Endocannabinoid System to Track Different Types of Tissue

One of the most important concepts that our blog can communicate to readers is that cannabis is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the endocannabinoid system. This chemical system, that happens to respond to cannabis, was not merely an afterthought in the evolution of the human body, but actually exists in many different animals as well (including birds!). Thanks to the resurgence in cannabis and cannabinoid research around the globe, new uses for the system are constantly emerging. So far, the scientific community has shown most interest in direct uses of the endocannabinoid system to formulate new medicines for stress, pain, neuroprotective effects, and metabolism. However, researchers in Finland have identified a new use of the system…as a biomarker! Biomarkers are any indicators used to track and identify the existence of a biological state or condition. While that sounds complicated, many readers may have already benefitted from the use of biomarkers during medical procedures or checkups. For instance, those with chronic heart problems may already be familiar with the “nuclear stress test”. In this test, doctors are attempting to see how blood is being pumped through the body and which areas are not receiving enough blood during vigorous exercise or cardiac stress. Unfortunately, attempting to crack open a patient’s chest to view this directly would be dangerous, time-consuming, and costly. Additionally, even with the chest open, the doctor would have no quantifiable way to measure blood-flow in each small area. To solve this, doctors often inject…