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…

Managing Neuropathic Pain with Cannabis

Chronic neuropathic pain affects between 1% and 2% of all adults, which means that you’ve likely encountered someone suffering from neuropathic pain or experienced it directly. As would be expected from the sheer prevalence, there are many causes for such pain, ranging from illness, such as diabetes, to specific events of trauma, such as car accidents or work injuries. Traditionally, neuropathic pain has been considered “refractory” to treatment options, meaning that it is difficult to manage consistently and effectively. However, new research has pointed to cannabis as a viable option for treatment of neuropathic pain. As has been the basis of many of the therapeutic effects of cannabis, the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis are likely responsible for the observation of cannabis use reducing neuropathic pain. Although the specific mechanisms of neuropathy are poorly understood, it is speculated that glial cells, which are the immune system enforcers of the brain and spinal cord, are not functioning properly or are overcompensating for injury by over-producing inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-1beta. It is also known that the endocannabinoid system is capable of regulating and signaling production of this very molecule, as well as other inflammatory molecules, which draws an obvious link between cannabis consumption and neuropathy. However, while the specific mechanism of action is not mapped, researchers are continuing with the testing of cannabinoids in models of neuropathy. One particularly comprehensive study from the University of Calgary focused on neuropathy stemming from diabetes, which is a common side effect of the illness (50%…

Combating the Side Effects of Diabetes with Cannabis

Close to 8% of men and women worldwide are affected with diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to simply as “diabetes”. The disease ranges in severity and symptoms but is often crippling, making it the 8th leading cause of death worldwide whilst rendering the comparatively more fortunate portion of patients with a multitude of harmful symptoms that impair daily life. While the underlying cause of diabetes centers around insulin production, cannabis has shown promise in improving the general climate of the disease, as well as attenuating various side effects. The following article will focus on a general review of evidence surrounding these new discoveries. For readers not familiar with the causes of diabetes, the most important concept to understand is how the body regulates blood sugar. Blood sugar is the free amount of glucose (sugar) available to cells from the blood. It is one of the main sources of cellular respiration; however, at high doses can be toxic to the cells that rely upon it as an energy source. As the body gleans nutrients and energy from the food and pumps those into the bloodstream, blood sugar levels rocket. However, the human body cannot perform reliably with rapidly shifting levels of energy, so the body flattens the blood sugar spike back down to normal levels by releasing insulin, a chemical that encourages glucose to be stored in muscle and fat tissues for later use. (See graph of uptake below). Two common types of problems can occur with this system, which both result…