Scientists have come a step closer to understanding and harnessing the healing power of cannabis. European researchers discovered how to separate the medical benefits of cannabis from the side effects – at least in mice.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia, working with scientists from the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, found that the cognitive effects of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is triggered by a pathway that’s separate from the one that triggers other effects of the compound. When the right pathway is blocked, THC can still exert several beneficial effects, including pain relief, while avoiding side effects like memory impairment, according to a university release.
“THC, the major active component of marijuana, has broad medical use – including for pain relief, nausea and anxiety,” Dr. Peter McCormick, from the University of East Anglia School of Pharmacy, said in the release. “Our previous research has also found that it could reduce tumor size in cancer patients. However, it is also known to induce numerous undesirable side effects such as memory impairment, anxiety and dependence.
“There has been a great deal of medical interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms at work in THC, so that the beneficial effects can be harnessed without the side-effects," he said. "This research is important because it identifies a way to reduce some of what, in medical treatment, are usually thought of as THC's unwanted side effects, while maintaining several important benefits including pain reduction."
The journal PLOS Biology published the research, which was also noted on sciencedaily.com. Twenty-three states currently allow cannabis for medical purposes.