1:1, Conversations with Leading Cannabinoid Researchers

Today we’re introducing a new feature of the Cornerstone blog – "1:1" featuring interviews from top scientists and engineers on the leading edge of cannabinoid and endocannabinoid research. This feature is intended to allow readers to hear directly from the sources of information that we pull our blog posts from. We believe that doing so will not only help you have a better sense of how research is conducted, but even more importantly, will remove as much bias as possible from our end and leave you with the cold, hard facts. After visiting the 2015 International Cannabinoid Research Society Conference, we were impressed with the number of hard-working individuals exploring innovative uses of the endocannabinoid system. One of these individuals was Harriet de Wit, from the University of Chicago, who, along with research teammates Joseph Lutz and Emma Childs, prepared a review for the conference entitled “Does Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Dampen Responses to Social Stress?”. Harriet holds a doctoral degree in Experimental Psychology and has an extensive background in behavioral science. As a powerhouse of research, she has directed and contributed to studies ranging from the effects of illicit drugs to the connection between exercise and sweet consumption on human behavior and perception. De Wit’s THC research represents one interest out of many others surrounding the complexity of human drug use. Cornerstone (CRC): As a researcher coming from the psych end of the spectrum, you have an advantage in understanding the human condition better than researchers with purely biomolecular backgrounds.…

How Chronic Stress Impairs the Endocannabioid System

In general, research into the body’s endocannabinoid system proceeds via administering a substance like a cannabinoid or another drug, and recording the impact of that administration on a specific behavior or physiological process. However, few experiments consider the reverse question: how do our behaviors and environments affect the endocannabinoid system? This system, like most other neurological systems, is not made up of a rigidly fixed number of receptors or ligands. Instead, it constantly changes and adapts to best serve the body, ramping up and down receptor density and receptor affinity as the body deems appropriate. Stress is now understood to be one of the factors that can impact the endocannabinoid system. In general, exposure to stressful events can easily cause a diverse and lasting set of consequences in both humans and animals. In what is most likely the body’s attempt to overcome and live with chronic stress or the possibility of another stressful event, synapses, which are the paths of communication between individual neurons, re-wire themselves. One extreme example is the maladaptive change that can occur in soldiers put in life or death situations. Soldiers may, for instance, learn to associate sounds heard during such a stressful event with the occurrence of the event itself. Later, in non-hostile environments, these same sounds can then trigger the body and brain to re-live the event, with intense physiological changes, such as the release of adrenaline and increased aggression. This is a classic example of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). However, stress can…

Treating Stress & Anxiety Disorders with Cannabis

If you’re a patient suffering from stress or anxiety, there’s good news: researchers are making interesting new in-roads into the biological mechanisms capable of alleviating these conditions.  A recent report published in the medical journal Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders sheds light on the effects cannabis use might have on alleviating stress and anxiety by focusing on endogenous cannabinoids (eCBs) found in cannabis and their respective brain receptors. A growing body of evidence has shown that this system plays crucial roles in managing stress, anxiety, and stress-related psychiatric illness. So far, one of the most useful approaches to understanding the eCB system has been to utilize genetically modified mice. In this approach, researchers delete genes that produce cannabinoid receptors, rendering the mice unable to absorb/use cannabinoids. Scientists have found that these mice exhibit a trend of high anxiety, impaired stress coping, and stress-induced psychopathology (gauged by accepted benchmark tests for rodents). While these effects seem to depend on what part of the brain and what specific neurons the receptors are attached to, the overwhelming trend is that mice lacking receptors also perform poorly, which implies that the eCB system is an essential part of stress and anxiety management. Another useful approach has been investigating chemical inhibitors that slow the rate of the enzymes (FAAH and MAGL) that naturally dispose/recycle eCBs. This approach is similar to many commercially available anti-depressants: the pill itself does not contain serotonin (the lack of which has been related to mood disorder), but rather a…