Marijuana Compounds May Protect Against MS Damage

shutterstock_45037957Multiple sclerosis is a disease that is still without cure. Treatments available only serve to address the various symptoms that the disease may exhibit. One of the more controversial treatments involves the use of marijuana. Recent studies seem to bolster the fact that it may help in MS treatment.

According to researchers from Tel Aviv University in Israel, chemical compounds found in marijuana can help treat multiple sclerosis in mice models by preventing inflammation in the brain and the spinal cord. “Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response, but in cases like MS, it gets out of hand,” says Dr. Ewa Kozela of Tel Aviv University. “Our study looks at how compounds isolated from marijuana can be used to regulate inflammation to protect the nervous system and its functions,” Dr. Kozela further added.

The researchers set out to determine whether two known compounds in marijuana with anti-inflammatory properties- cannabinoids known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – will also be effective in treating MS symptoms. They treated immune cells isolated from mice with disease similar to MS that specifically target and do damage to the brain and the spinal cord with either THC or CBD. This resulted in the immune cells producing fewer inflammatory molecules, most especially that of interleukin 17 or IL-17. This inflammatory molecule is associated with MS and can do considerable damage to the insulating covers of the nerve cells. The lesser production of the inflammatory molecules limits the ability of the inflammatory molecules to do damage to the spinal cord and the brain.

The researchers injected CBD on mice with MS-like conditions and partially paralyzed limbs. They observed that the animals regained movement, first as tail twitching and later developing a walk without limping. The researchers also noticed that the mice treated with CBD exhibited lesser inflammation in the brain as compared to the untreated mice.

Further research may be needed in order to determine the level of effectiveness that cannabiniods such as THC and CBD in treating MS in humans. But the researchers also noted that some countries have already been using cannabinoids like THC and CBD to treat other conditions such as pain and muscle stiffness. According to Dr. Kozela, “When used wisely, cannabis has huge potential. We’re just beginning to understand how it works.” The results of the study were published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University. “Sending multiple sclerosis up in smoke.” ScienceDaily, 7 Oct. 2013. Web. 30 Nov. 2013

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