AUG 17, 2018 4:00 AM PDT

Cannabis Used as an Immunomodulator for AutoImmune Diseases

WRITTEN BY: Amanda Kahl

Autoimmune disease affects individuals by attacking healthy cells. Normally, your immune system sends out antibodies to guard against viruses and germs and does not attack healthy cells. However, with this disease, the antibodies mistake healthy cells with foreign cells, and your body attacks its self. There is no known cure and only limited treatments because the effects of this disease are so vast. Types of autoimmune disease include Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Crohn's, and Hashimoto's. Symptoms can range from fatigue, hair loss, redness, swelling, skin rashes, to tingling and numbness in the limbs. 

Scientists hypothesize that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in marijuana has the capacity to affect DNA expression through epigenetic pathways outside of the DNA itself and are looking for a way to test this. Chemical compounds outside DNA collectively are known as epigenomes; these compounds can attach to DNA and alter its function by changing the way cells use the DNA's instructions. They believe THC can be used to suppress the immune response to treat autoimmune disease.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina state that, "Recent findings show THC can change critical molecules of epigenome called histones, leading to suppression of inflammation." They go on to explain that, "The epigenetic influence toward inflammation suppression, marijuana use could be efficacious in the treatment of autoimmune disease such as arthritis, lupus, colitis, MS and the like, in which chronic inflammation plays a central role." 

The current treatment for this disease is an inflammation-reducing medication along with medications to help calm down an overactive immune system. Naproxen and ibuprofen are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can be prescribed but come with a list of side effects like stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, kidney or liver problems, and dizziness and headaches. Along with these drugs, immunosuppressant drugs can also be used to prevent or inhibit immune system activity. The side effects from these medications include increased risk of infections, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. 

This is why scientists believe cannabis could be effective as an immunomodulator; it can be used to suppress the immune response but carry fewer side effects with it. Cannabis is known to have anti-inflammatory effects, calming of swelling, ease nausea and headaches, and prevent loss of appetite. The Journal of Biological Chemistry recently published a study exploring how THC influences microRNAs. "The micro-RNAs also called miRNAs are single-stranded, small, non-coding RNAs which play an important role in the regulation of gene expression." Cannabis' ability to alter miRNA expression could be a key step in finding a more suitable treatment. 

The University's School of Medicine's researchers performed a trial on mice. They injected THC into mice and studied their RNA. Results showed that there were 609 miRNAs tested, and out of this number, THC greatly altered 12 of them. Another trial on mice was performed at a Hebrew University. The mice that were treated with CBD in this trial experienced a 50 percent improvement in joint health. This shows the implications for the use of CBD as a treatment for arthritis and other similar joint diseases.

Cannabis is already able to treat achy muscles, fatigue, swelling, anxiety, and more. Scientists are applying these benefits to treating autoimmune disease but also looking out for the impact cannabis could have on suppressing the beneficial inflammation in the body. With more trials and studies being performed applying this drug to the multiple autoimmune diseases, researchers will be able to advance treatments for patients. 

Sources: Science DailyMarijuana Doctors

 

About the Author
  • Amanda has a Bachelor's in Biological Sciences from the University of Cincinnati. She has a passion for animals, conservation, and environmental sciences. Through her career in science and research, she is able to develop her passion and hopes to pass on to others the joy of learning about science.
You May Also Like
SEP 27, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
THC Shows Promise in Treating Severe Cases of COVID-19
SEP 27, 2020
THC Shows Promise in Treating Severe Cases of COVID-19
Over the last few months, various headlines have emerged suggesting the potential for cannabinoids, and in particular, c ...
OCT 15, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Can Cannabis Treat Traumatic Brain Injury?
OCT 15, 2020
Can Cannabis Treat Traumatic Brain Injury?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when the head is violently hit by an object or when an object pierces the skull and ...
OCT 22, 2020
Health & Medicine
Vaping of Nicotine and Cannabis Mirror Each Other in Young People
OCT 22, 2020
Vaping of Nicotine and Cannabis Mirror Each Other in Young People
A new study has looked at whether nicotine and cannabis vaping follow similar trajectories from adolescence through to y ...
DEC 14, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Users Need More Anesthetic During Surgery than Nonusers
DEC 14, 2020
Cannabis Users Need More Anesthetic During Surgery than Nonusers
Anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis users require more anesthetic at the beginning of surgery than those who do no ...
DEC 22, 2020
Health & Medicine
Cannabis Use May Help People on an Opioid Detox Program Stay on Track
DEC 22, 2020
Cannabis Use May Help People on an Opioid Detox Program Stay on Track
New research suggests that cannabis use by people being treated for opioid addiction might improve outcomes and reduce t ...
JAN 28, 2021
Health & Medicine
Cannabis Use Disorder in Youths Linked With Self-Harm and Mortality Risk
JAN 28, 2021
Cannabis Use Disorder in Youths Linked With Self-Harm and Mortality Risk
Cannabis use disorder or CUD is common among younger cannabis users with mood disorders such as bipolar disorder or majo ...
Loading Comments...