September 19, 2008
Science Daily/Complutense University of Madrid
Scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) have studied the effects of a drug that reduces the progression of a disease similar to multiple sclerosis in animals. This discovery represents another step in the standing fight against the disease.
The research, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, aimed to study in depth the already known effects of lessening the symptoms and stopping the advance of multiple sclerosis that cannabinoids have, while developing a drug that would not have the psychoactive effects of the marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa). To achieve this, the scientists have focused their study on the role of the cannabinoids receptor CB2, present both in the immune system as well as in the defence-cells of the nervous system (microglial cells).
Multiple sclerosis is a neurodegenerative disease whose causes are not yet fully understood. It is known that the disease is produced by an autoimmune response where the defence-cells in the organism attack and destroy the nerve cells of the organism generating symptoms such as stiffness, twitching, progressive paralysis, etc.
The researchers managed by Professor Ismael Galve from the UCM, founded their conclusions on the role of the cannabinoids receptors in Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a disease that reproduces some of the processes and symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In the study it has been tested that administering a drug that activates receptor CB2 (but not CB1, responsible for the psychactive effects), the symptoms of the disease lessen and a reduction of 50% in nerve cell loss was perceived.
This research has introduced yet another novelty: The stimulation of the CB2 receptor not only reduces the excessive activation of brain cells in charge of the defence of the central nervous system, but it also reduces the supply of new defence-cells that travelling throughout the blood stream from bone marrow, would act as reinforcements for the defence-cells of the central nervous system.
According to Ismael Galve, the results are important because the drug is capable of acting in an already sick animal, reducing the symptoms and the brain cell loss. The obtained results, along with other predecessors confirm the role of endogenous cannabinoids in the origin of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and its possible application to multiple sclerosis. Therefore the role of the CB2 receptor in the regulation and neuro-immune response supports the research currently being carried out on the possible use of cannabinoid drugs in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
The research has been carried out by the department of biochemistry and molecular biology of the Complutense University of Madrid, in collaboration with the Neuroscience research Institute of Lyon in France and the pharmaceutical company Pharmos.