The new research by the University of Western Sydney has found cannabinoids may be able to treat a wide range of conditions including: cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer and stroke.
The study, led by Associate Professor of Medicine in the School of Medicine, Dr James W. Langer, was published in the journal Cancer Research.
“Our findings show cannabinoids may offer a promising treatment for the following conditions,” he said.
Professor Langer said the study demonstrated that cannabinoids could have a role in treating multiple diseases, including multiple sclerosis, multiple sclerosis with a form of progressive dementia, and multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
“Our research is a proof of concept that cannabinoids can be used in conjunction with conventional treatments, as well as some alternative treatments, to treat multiple sclerosis.”
Professor Langers team of researchers studied the use of cannabinoids as a treatment for several conditions.
Cannabinoids were first synthesised in the 1960s by Dr J. Robert Curran and Dr Robert M. Brown, with the aim of treating neurodegenerative disorders.
However, these molecules were only found to be beneficial in a small number of conditions, including epilepsy, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
A review in 2010 found that cannabinoids are currently used as a therapy for several diseases including multiple, progressive and incurable forms of MS, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatic heart disease, multiple myeloma, Crohns disease and multiple myocardial infarction.
The team studied cannabis extracts derived from Cannabis sativa, a member of the cannabis genus Cannabis.
Professor Langs research team found that cannabis extracts, known as cannabinoids, had a range of therapeutic properties.
“This has been confirmed with animal models,” he explained.
“We have shown cannabinoids are capable of inhibiting cancer cell growth and apoptosis.”
In addition, we have shown that cannabinoids inhibit inflammation, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.””
In humans, cannabinoids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, and they have been demonstrated to prevent oxidative stress and inflammation in humans.””
They have been associated with a range in neurodegenesis, including Huntington’s disease,” Professor Langer added.
Professor Paul N. Dolan, a University of Sydney PhD student, and his colleagues have conducted studies on the effects of cannabinoids in human cancer cells.
Professor Dolan said that his team was interested in examining whether cannabinoids could be used to treat cancer.
He said: “Cannabinoid derivatives can be useful in the treatment of certain types of cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancers, where cannabinoid therapies have not yet been approved by the FDA.”
Currently, there is limited evidence that cannabinoids exert any benefit in the prevention or treatment of these cancers.”
However, we would like to explore this possibility further to understand whether cannabinoids can also be used as therapeutic agents for other types of cancer.
“Professor Dameron added: “We would like this research to provide important information on the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids for a variety of diseases and conditions, and help to understand the clinical and epidemiological basis for this potential.””
We believe the potential of this research is well worth continuing,” he concluded.
Dr Langer noted that cannabis has also been shown in animal models to help fight depression.
And while he said that cannabis extract extracts could also be useful for treating inflammatory bowel diseases, the team was unsure whether cannabinoids would offer similar benefits.
Dr Langers study also looked at the effect of cannabinoids on inflammation in mice.
It found cannabinoids could act as a therapeutic agent in the mouse model of Crohn s disease, a bowel disease that affects the gut.”
Using cannabinoid extracts in mice, we demonstrated that these extracts were able to reduce inflammation and increase survival in mice with Crohn S disease,” he noted.”
Moreover, cannabinoid extracts induced apoptosis in the colon of mice and induced significant reductions in the expression of proinflammatory cytokines such as TNF-alpha and IL-6.
“Dr Langs team of scientists also studied how cannabinoids could affect the immune system in humans.
This research showed cannabinoids, when administered in combination with the immunosuppressive drugs methotrexate and methotropion, were able help to reduce the number of lymphocytes, which is a marker of inflammation.
But, in humans, the researchers said they were not yet sure if cannabinoids would have the same effect in patients with CrohNS disease.
Professor W. Paul Langan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, said that the results from his team showed that cannabinoids were not only effective in treating conditions like Crohn disease, but could also provide an effective treatment for cancer.”
Cannabinol, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is a naturally occurring compound that can be found in cannabis plants, and is the main psychoactive constituent in cannabis,” Professor Langan said.