Medical Cannabis – another piece in the mosaic of autoimmunity?

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“Legalization of cannabis’ medicinal use is rapidly increasing worldwide, raising the need to evaluate medical implications of cannabis. Currently evidence supports cannabis and its active ingredients as an immune-modulating agents, affecting T-cells, B-cells, Monocytes and Microglia-cells, causing an overall reduction in pro-inflammatory cytokine expression and an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokines. Due to the supporting evidence of cannabinoids as an immune-modulating agent, research focusing on cannabinoids and autoimmunity has emerged. Several clinical trials in multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and fibromyalgia suggest cannabis’ effectiveness as an immune-modulator. However, contradicting results and lack of large scale clinical trials obscure these results. Though lacking clinical research, in-vitro and in-vivo experiments in rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes type 1 and systemic sclerosis, demonstrate a correlation between disease activity and cannabinoids.”

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Interaction between interleukin-1β and type-1 cannabinoid receptor is involved in anxiety-like behavior in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

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“Mood disorders, including anxiety and depression, are frequently diagnosed in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, even independently of the disabling symptoms associated with the disease.

Anatomical, biochemical, and pharmacological evidence indicates that type-1 cannabinoid receptor (CB1R) is implicated in the control of emotional behavior and is modulated during inflammatory neurodegenerative diseases such as MS and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).

We investigated whether CB1R could exert a role in anxiety-like behavior in mice with EAE. We performed behavioral, pharmacological, and electrophysiological experiments to explore the link between central inflammation, mood, and CB1R function in EAE.

Overall, results of the present investigation indicate that synaptic dysfunction linked to CB1R is involved in EAE-related anxiety and motivation-based behavior and contribute to clarify the complex neurobiological mechanisms underlying mood disorders associated to MS.

Collectively, our data contribute to clarify the synaptic and, at least in part, molecular basis of mood disturbances in EAE and, possibly, MS. Understanding the neurobiological underpinning of anxiety-like behavior in EAE mice is of crucial importance to optimize the treatment of mood disturbance in MS and, possibly, other neuroinflammatory diseases.

In this direction, targeting the endocannabinoid system may be a valid therapeutic tool for the treatment of both psychiatric and motor symptoms in MS patients.”

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Expression of Cannabinoid Receptors in Human Osteoarthritic Cartilage: Implications for Future Therapies

“Cannabinoids have shown to reduce joint damage in animal models of arthritis and reduce matrix metalloproteinase expression in primary human osteoarthritic (OA) chondrocytes.

Chondrocytes from OA joints were shown to express a wide range of cannabinoid receptors even in degenerate tissues, demonstrating that these cells could respond to cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids designed to bind to receptors inhibiting the catabolic and pain pathways within the arthritic joint, while avoiding psychoactive effects, could provide potential arthritis therapies.

Cannabinoids were originally derived from the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa, which has been used medicinally and recreationally for many years because of its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and psychoactive properties.”

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Immunoactive cannabinoids: Therapeutic prospects for marijuana constituents

“Marijuana, the common name for Cannabis sativa, is a widely distributed hemp plant whose dried flowering tops and leaves have been used for medicinal purposes for 12,000 years by some estimates.

The article by Malfaitet al. in this issue of PNAS is relevant to the question of whether such traditional uses of marijuana could be clinically justifiable today.

It is conceivable that marijuana contains a series of cannabinoids that, in the aggregate, could alleviate arthritis as implied in the present report, yet remain well tolerated.

Remarkably, the claim that marijuana does so also was made 4,000 years ago by the Chinese emperor Shen-nung whose pharmacobotanical compendium, the Pen-ts’ao Ching, concluded that cannabis “undoes rheumatism””

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Effects of cannabinoids on nitric oxide production by chondrocytes and proteoglycan degradation in cartilage.

“Cannabinoids have been reported to have anti-inflammatory effects and reduce joint damage in animal models of arthritis.

This suggests a potential therapeutic role in arthritis of this group of compounds.

Cannabinoids were studied to determine whether they have direct effects on chondrocyte metabolism resulting in cartilage protection.

Synthetic cannabinoids, R-(+)-Win-55,212 (Win-2) and S-(-)-Win-55,212 (Win-3) and the endocannabinoid, anandamide, were investigated on unstimulated or IL-1-stimulated nitric oxide (NO) production in bovine articular chondrocytes as well as on cartilage proteoglycan breakdown in bovine nasal cartilage explants.

Win-2 significantly inhibited (P < 0.05) NO production in chondrocytes at 1-10 microM concentrations. The combined CB(1) and CB(2) cannabinoid receptor antagonists, AM281 and AM630, respectively, at 100 microM did not block this effect, but instead they potentiated it. Anandamide and Win-2 (5-50 microM) also inhibited the release of sulphated glycosaminoglycans in bovine cartilage explants.

The results suggest that some cannabinoids may prevent cartilage resorption, in part, by inhibiting cytokine-induced NO production by chondrocytes and also by inhibiting proteoglycan degradation.”

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Cannabimimetic Drugs: Recent Patents in Central Nervous System Disorders.

“Agents acting via cannabinoid receptors have been widely developed; starting from the chemical structure of phytocannabinoids isolated from cannabis sativa plant, specific and selective compounds of these receptors have been produced ranging from partial to full agonists and /or antagonists endowed with different potency.

The enhanced interest on developing such classes of drugs is due to the beneficial properties widely reported by both anecdotal reports and scientific studies describing the potential medicinal use of cannabinoids and their derivatives in numerous pathological conditions in both in vitro and in vivo models.

The use of these drugs has been found to be of benefit in a wide number of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, and in many other diseases ranging from cancer, atherosclerosis, stroke, hypertension, inflammatory related disorders, and autoimmune diseases, just to mention some.

In particular, being the cannabinoid CB1 receptor a central receptor expressed by neurons of the central nervous system, the attention for the treatment of neurological diseases has been mainly focused on compounds acting via this receptor, however some of these compounds has been showed to act by alternative pathways in some cases unrelated to CB1 receptors.

Nonetheless, endocannabinoids are potent regulators of the synaptic function in the central nervous system and their levels are modulated in neurological diseases.

In this study, we focused on endocannabinoid mechanism of action in neuronal signaling and on cannabimimetic drug potential application in neurological disorders.

Finally, novel patents on cannabis-based drugs with applicability in central nervous system disorders are highlighted, to suggest future potential therapeutic utility of derivatives of this ancient plant.”

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Pathways and gene networks mediating the regulatory effects of cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, in autoimmune T cells.

“Our previous studies showed that the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), ameliorates the clinical symptoms in mouse myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)35-55-induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis model of multiple sclerosis (MS) as well as decreases the memory MOG35-55-specific T cell (TMOG) proliferation and cytokine secretion including IL-17, a key autoimmune factor.

Microarray-based gene expression profiling demonstrated that CBD exerts its immunoregulatory effects in activated memory TMOG cells via (a) suppressing proinflammatory Th17-related transcription, (b) by promoting T cell exhaustion/tolerance, (c) enhancing IFN-dependent anti-proliferative program, (d) hampering antigen presentation, and (d) inducing antioxidant milieu resolving inflammation.

These findings put forward mechanism by which CBD exerts its anti-inflammatory effects as well as explain the beneficial role of CBD in pathological memory T cells and in autoimmune diseases.”

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Cannabinoids inhibit fibrogenesis in diffuse systemic sclerosis fibroblasts.


“Recently, it has also been demonstrated that the pleiotropic cannabinoid system is involved in both liver and pancreatic fibrosis. Furthermore, cannabinoids may play a pro- or anti-fibrogenic role depending on their interaction with CB1r or CB2r.

This raises the possibility that pharmacologic modulation of the endocannabinoid system could be a target to limit tissue damage in pathologic fibrosis.

It has been demonstrated that the endocannabinoid system is up-regulated in pathologic fibrosis and that modulation of the cannabinoid receptors might limit the progression of uncontrolled fibrogenesis.

Both CB1 and CB2 receptors were over-expressed in dcSSc fibroblasts compared with healthy controls.

Our preliminary findings suggest that cannabinoids are provided with an anti-fibrotic activity, thereby possibly representing a new class of agents targeting fibrosis diseases.”

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Can Cannabinoids Modulate Fibrotic Progression in Systemic Sclerosis?

“Since ancient times, plants have been used for therapeutic purposes.

Cannabis sativa has been widely used as a medicinal herb by Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.

According to our in vitro and in vivo experimental models, cannabinoids are able to modulate fibrosis.

The exact mechanism underlying this effect requires further investigation, but it seems to go beyond their anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.

Based on the above observations, we aimed to investigate the role of cannabinoids in systemic sclerosis (SSc), an autoimmune disease characterized by diffuse fibrosis.

Since preclinical data on cannabinoids show their capability to modulate fibrosis, inflammation and vasodilatation, these molecules could be ideal drugs for targeting SSc.”

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“Medical uses of Cannabis sativa have been known for over 6,000 years. Nowadays, cannabis is mostly known for its psychotropic effects and its ability to relieve pain, even though there is evidence of cannabis use for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis centuries ago. The pharmacological therapy in autoimmune diseases is mainly based on immunosuppression of different axes of the immune system while many of the drugs have major side effects. In this review we set out to examine the rule of Cannabis sativa as an immunomodulator and its potential as a new treatment option. In order to examine this subject we will focus on some major autoimmune diseases such as diabetes type I and rheumatoid arthritis.”

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