APR 09, 2015 9:23 AM PDT

Common Cholesterol Drug Stimulates Same Receptors as Marijuana

WRITTEN BY: Judy O'Rourke

If you want the benefits of medical marijuana without the "unwanted side effects" of cannabis, new research could leave you on a high note.

According to a research report appearing in the April 2015 issue of The FASEB Journal, fenofibrate, also known by the brand name Tricor®, may benefit a wide range of health issues, such as pain, appetite stimulation, nausea, as well as immune and various psychiatric and neurological conditions. This suggests that fenofibrate may be the starting point for a new class of cannabis-like drugs to treat these types of conditions.

"By illustrating the relationship between fenofibrate and the cannabinoid system, we aim to improve our understanding of this clinically important drug," says a researcher involved in the work, Richard S. Priestley, PhD, School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham Medical School, UK. "Our study provides the basis for the investigation of new drugs targeting these important receptors."

To make this discovery, Priestly and colleagues cultured cells containing cannabinoid receptors and exposed them to a tracer compound, which binds to cannabinoid receptors. They found that fenofibrate was able to displace the tracer, suggesting that it also binds to the receptors.

They also discovered that fenofibrate actually switched the cannabinoid receptors "on," not only in these cells, but also in sections of intestine. This led to the relaxation of the tissue in a way that mimicked what marijuana does.

Despite the fact that fenofibrate has been used for many years, and its mechanism of action was presumed to be through a completely different family of receptors, this suggests that at least some of the effects of fenofibrate may be controlled by cannabinoid receptors. Furthermore, these cannabinoid receptors may be a future target for drugs used to treat pain and a variety of immune and psychiatric diseases.

"It may be difficult to persuade people in Colorado, Washington, and the District of Columbia that there are people who want the beneficial effects of marijuana without actually getting high," says Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief, The FASEB Journal, "but there are people who do not want to get stoned just to get the relief that marijuana brings. This new work suggests that possibility."

The FASEB Journal, published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), is the world's most-cited biology journal according to the Institute for Scientific Information. FASEB is composed of 27 societies with more than 120,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States.

[Source: The FASEB Journal]

About the Author
  • Judy O'Rourke worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming chief editor of Clinical Lab Products magazine. As a freelance writer today, she is interested in finding the story behind the latest developments in medicine and science, and in learning what lies ahead.
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