Dr. Ewa Kozela from Tel Aviv University explains inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response but gets out of hand in diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS). His study investigates how cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis, can be utilized to protect the nervous system and its function by regulating inflammation.
Dr. Kozela and his team targeted immune cells that harm the brain and spinal cord with the cannabinoids known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). In response to both compounds, immune cells in paralyzed mice showed less inflammation. In particular the interleukin 17 (IL-17) closely associated with MS was reduced.
They conclude CBD and THC restrains immune cells from triggering the production of IL-17 and limits the molecule’s ability to damage the brain and spinal cord.
70 Cannabinoids, unique to cannabis
In 1964 scientists in Israel discovered and identified THC and about 70 other cannabinoids with promising biological effects in cannabis.
Co-author of the study Professor Zvi Vogel was amongst the very first researchers to describe endocannabinoids in the 1990s, molecules found naturally in the body that act like THC. CBD is the most common and potent cannabinoid in marijuana according to Vogel.
He is particularly interested in cannabidiol (CBD) found in the hemp variety of cannabis, which provides medical benefits without the psychedelic side effect of THC.
A study done in 2011 showed CBD prevent immune cells attacking nerve cells in the spinal cord of mice with MS-like symptoms. The partially paralyzed limbs of the mice regained movement after they were injected with CBD. At first, mice responded by twitching their tails and then began walking without a limp. Research found much less inflammation in the spinal cords of mice treated with CBD than in untreated counterparts, which lead to the further investigation.
More than 400 000 people in the United States and about 2.5 million people globally suffer from MS. Plus minus 200 new cases are diagnosed each week in the United States alone. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 – 40, but MS also affects children and the aged.
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