Researchers were eager to know how cannabis reduced symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) after recent studies. Now, the latest research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation from the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Bath provide evidence that endocannabinoids “which are endogenous lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors” are found to biologically mange and prevent intestinal inflammation in mice.
For the first time, scientists have reported a pathway that can explain how marijuana usage held beneficial effects on intestinal inflammation such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Scientists are hopeful that these reporting’s can allow progress in drug discovery and treatments for gut disorders. Affecting millions of people, gut disorders are caused by the inability for an immune system to recognize the body’s lining of the intestine as its “own” thus attacking it as a foreign invader.
"There's been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of medical marijuana, but there hasn't been a lot of science to back it up," says Beth A. McCormick, PhD, the vice chair and professor of microbiology & physiological systems at UMass Medical School. "For the first time, we have an understanding of the molecules involved in the process and how endocannabinoids and cannabinoids control inflammation. This gives clinical researchers a new drug target to explore to treat patients that suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, and perhaps other diseases, as well."
Most importantly, investigators identified two important pathways that are fluxing and constantly responding to changing conditions. The first pathway discovered in previous research promoted an aggressive immune response in the intestines that eradicate pathogens but also destroys the intestinal lining when the immune cells approach. The second process that was first examined in the study shuts down inflammatory responses via molecular transportation across the epithelial lining of the gut by the same mechanism known for toxin removal. Interestingly, the immune response utilizes a endocannabinoid.
In the absence of an endocannabinoid, intestinal inflammation is out of balance and can be unmonitored as the immune system attacks the intestinal lining. Professor McCormick and research team believe that cannabis use introduces cannabinoids into the bodily system of a user, then these molecules could reduce gut inflammation and provide relief. "We need to be clear that while this is a plausible explanation for why marijuana users have reported cannabis relieves symptoms of IBD, we have thus far only evaluated this in mice and have not proven this experimentally in humans. We hope, however, that these findings will help us develop new ways to treat bowel diseases in humans" said professor Randy Mrsny from the University of Bath Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.