Scientists believe that the chemical compounds found in cannabis have the potential to cure major chronic bowel illnesses like Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis because they imitate the signals the body employs to control inflammation in the gut.
Some patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have reported that medicinal marijuana has helped their symptoms, according to research from the University of Bath.
Even though the studies have only been conducted in mice so far, they may eventually lead to new treatment targets for illnesses that impact millions of people worldwide.
University of Bath Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology Professor Randy Mrsny said, “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 only worked in mice and have not proven this experimentally in humans.
Although anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis exposure helps certain people with colitis, our findings may provide a molecular basis for this effect.
It is hoped that the discovery of this inhibitor of the intestinal inflammatory response will lead to novel therapies for bowel disorders.
According to Crohn’s and Colitis UK, 300,000 individuals in the United Kingdom suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, the most prevalent types of which being Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
They are lifelong diseases that may cause irreparable harm to the intestinal and digestive system cells via persistent inflammation and eventually need surgical intervention.
This study, which included collaboration between researchers in Bath and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
They discovered two systems, both of which are dynamic in response to changing circumstances in the intestines, control inflammation in the gut.
While a strong immune response in the gut is helpful for eliminating harmful organisms, it may cause damage to the intestinal lining if immune cells assault without proper targeting.
The second mechanism, as described in the latest study, inhibits this inflammatory response by moving chemicals from the intestinal lining cells into the intestine itself.
Researchers suggest that cannabinoid molecules in cannabis are identical to naturally occurring chemicals called endocannabinoids, which are necessary for this reaction.
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Without the endocannabinoid, the body’s immune cells may assault the gut lining, causing inflammation to flare up.
Since cannabinoids are introduced to the body by cannabis use, the researchers think they may reduce gastrointestinal inflammation in a similar fashion to the endocannabinoids generated endogenously.
In the words of University of Massachusetts Medicinal School professor Beth McCormick: “There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence regarding the advantages of medical marijuana, but there hasn’t been a lot of research to back it up.
We now know how endocannabinoids and cannabinoids regulate inflammation and, for the first time, the molecules involved in this process.
According to the authors, this “provides clinical researchers with a new pharmacological target to investigate in the treatment of patients with inflammatory bowel illnesses and maybe other diseases.”