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Heightened pain in individuals who are stressed, anxious or depressed is widely recognized by scientists. While the link between mood and pain perception is poorly understood, genetic factors have long been thought to play a part.

Now researchers have connected a stress-prone genetic background with a dampened response of endocannabinoids – natural chemicals that act to decrease pain – in a region of the brain called the rostral ventromedial medulla. The region is known to play a role in regulating pain.

Dr David Finn, of the Galway Neuroscience Centre and the Centre for Pain Research at the National University of Ireland (NUI), shared his thoughts on the new findings in this press release.

“The link between emotionality and pain is fascinating and highly complex. This research suggests a key role for the brain’s endocannabinoid system in a genetic background prone to heighted stress or negative emotion.”

He adds that the findings could lead to new treatments of pain and stress-related psychiatric disorders.

The study, published online in the journal PAIN, pinpointed CB1 receptors in the rostral ventromedial medulla as a site of action for the brain’s cannabinoid painkillers. CB1 receptors are also activated by THC in marijuana and a responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects.

Previous studies have also shown a pain-relieving effect of CB1 receptors in this region of the brain. However, Dr. Finn’s study was the first to link irregular endocannabinoid activity in the rostral ventromedial medulla to genetic stress factors.

The authors conclude that reversing the irregular activity may “represent a useful and novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of patients with pain that is exacerbated by negative affect or co-morbid with stress-related psychiatric disorders.”

The study received funding from the Science Foundation Ireland

Source: LeafScience.com

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Instead of wearing a mask every night, studies suggest a pill made from chemicals in marijuana could also do the trick.
Sleep scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago have spent years studying dronabinol – an FDA-approved pill containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – as a potential treatment for sleep apnea.

Earlier last year, they showed that it could significantly reduce the occurrence of apneas, or pauses in breathing, in a small group of patients – and without causing other sleep disruptions.

Research associate Michael Calik, PhD explains that the challenge has been finding a drug that can treat sleep apnea without creating new problems.

“Sleep apnea research has been going on for 30+ years. The main reason why we’ve always reached obstacles regarding finding a drug form to treat sleep apnea has been: when you try to treat sleep apnea, usually you will have other effects on sleep quality.”

However, scientists are keen on finding a treatment regimen that will be easier to follow than the current ‘gold standard’: a CPAP mask. Currently, there is no treatment for sleep apnea in drug form.

“Adherence to CPAP is bad. To pop a pill just before bed, the adherence would be a lot better and it could be a lot easier for people to stick on it. That’s the goal.”

Recently, Dr. Calik co-authored a study that identified how dronabinol works to reduce apneas during sleep, through its action on cannabinoid receptors in the peripheral nervous system. The findings were published this month in the journal Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology.

“What we found was a minimum of 100 ìg injections per nodose ganglia were able to totally attenuate or abolish apnea within rats.”

Dr. Calik says the findings add “proof that what we saw a couple years ago with systemic injections of dronabinol was happening extensively at the peripheral nervous system.”

Sleep apnea is thought to be caused by a loss of muscle tone in the upper airway during sleep, explains Dr. Calik. THC, on the other hand, seems to increase this tone.

While the only study in humans was a proof of concept trial, he notes that dronabinol has already been approved to treat other conditions.

“Dronabinol has been on the market for already two decades, if not more. It’s used to treat vomiting and nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.”

Dr. Calik says the next step is to hopefully extend the results through a larger study and to figure out more precisely how cannabinoid mechanisms interact with the peripheral and central nervous systems when it comes to sleep apnea.

The research received funding from the National Institutes of Health

Source: LeafScience.com

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Most recognize medical marijuana to be helpful for cancer patients in some way or another.

Yet marijuana’s legal status has prevented researchers in many countries from providing thorough evidence. Instead, scientists are limited to studying the effects of chemicals isolated from marijuana (called cannabinoids), which misses the full picture.

Thankfully, cannabis research is taking off in Israel, where medical marijuana is legal.

Just last year, a study involving 200 cancer patients found medical marijuana use led to “significant improvements” across “all” cancer and cancer treatment-related symptoms.

Here’s a list of 10 ways that marijuana seemed to help these patients during their battle with cancer:

1. Nausea and Vomiting

Marijuana may be best known for its ability to reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

It’s so effective that a pill form of THC (Marinol) has been approved by the FDA for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting since 1985.

2. Weight Loss

Along with nausea, patients undergoing chemotherapy often find it hard to maintain normal weight. Thankfully, marijuana has been shown to not only relieve nausea, but stimulate appetite as well.

For patients with cancer, marijuana can help improve food intake and prevent unhealthy loss of weight.

3. Mood

Cancer patients often suffer from mood disorders such as depression.

While it’s no secret that marijuana makes users feel good, research seems to explain why. As many studies have found, chemicals in marijuana appear to have significant anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.

4. Pain

Another well-known effect of marijuana is pain relief.

And while its benefits seem to span a range of chronic pain disorders, studies show that marijuana can help reduce pain in cancer as well.

5. Sleep

Patients with cancer often suffer from sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep.

On the other hand, sleepiness is one of marijuana’s most commonly reported side effects. THC has also been shown to improve sleep in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

6. Fatigue

Cancer-related fatigue can also cause patients to feel sleepy during the day.

Interestingly, marijuana seems to help patients combat daytime fatigue, while at the same time helping patients get to sleep at night. It’s multi-faceted effect on sleep may depend on the strain of marijuana and the balance of cannabinoids that they contain.

7. Sexual Function

Sexual dysfunction is a common, yet lesser known effect of cancer and cancer therapies.

While findings are inconsistent, marijuana has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac, dating back at least 3,000 years to ancient India.

8. Constipation

Chemicals in marijuana help regulate the digestive system and have been suggested as a treatment for a wide range of bowel disorders.

While marijuana seems to help by reducing bowel movements in inflammatory bowel disorders, it appears to have an opposite effect in constipation.

9. Itching

Itching can be a side effect of various cancers as well as various cancer treatments.

While the underlying causes of itching in cancer patients vary, marijuana seems to help some patients deal with this irritating symptom.

10. Cancer

Perhaps the most promising (and controversial) benefit of marijuana in cancer is the treatment of cancer itself.

While preclinical studies have long supported the ability of marijuana to kill cancer cells and stop the disease from spreading, the medical community argues that human research is lacking.

Still, studies in cell culture and animal models continue to show evidence of a cancer-fighting effect. So much so that major cancer organizations – including the U.S National Cancer Institute and Cancer Research UK – have large sections of their website dedicated to the role of cannabis and cannabinoids in fighting cancer.

Dr. Sean McAllister, of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, is hoping to start human trials involving cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment for breast cancer. His research shows that CBD can fight breast cancer in cell cultures and rodent models.

Unfortunately, no timeline on human studies has been set.

Source: LeafScience.com

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The drug is made from purified cannabidiol (CBD) – a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana – and is being marketed under the name Epidiolex, reports O’Shaughnessy’s.

So far, the FDA has approved two Investigational New Drug studies of Epidiolex for pediatric epilepsy, which are being led by Orrin Devinsky, MD, at the NYU School of Medicine, and Roberta Cilio, MD, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Each will involve 25 children with epilepsy, and other studies are awaiting approval.

If all goes as planned, GW Pharmaceuticals’ Chairman Geoffrey Guy, MD, expects more studies to begin within months.

“In the coming months, if the FDA is comfortable about how things are going, there will be a number of senior epileptologists in major university centers throughout the U.S., each treating a couple of dozen patients with various epilepsies.”

GW Pharmaceuticals is best known for its cannabis-based spray called Sativex, which is approved in over 20 countries for the treatment of multiple sclerosis symptoms.

However, the company has spent recent years developing a drug for epilepsy. Preclinical studies sponsored by the company show that CBD, along with a related cannabinoid called CBDV, have the potential to reduce epileptic seizures. Anecdotal reports also suggest that CBD-rich cannabis extracts could be effective in treating epilepsy in children.

Unlike Sativex, Epidiolex is a liquid medicine that can be administered with a syringe dropper. According to the company, the drug contains more than 98 percent CBD, along with trace amounts of other cannabinoids.

It is also THC-free, which will ensure that children are not getting high from the medicine.

Dr. Guy says if early results are positive, the FDA could speed up the clinical trial process

According to Dr. Guy, the FDA process came after parents of epileptic children began contacting the company in late 2012 hoping to obtain CBD. Since GW Pharmaceuticals was already working with the FDA on trials of Sativex, the company decided it made sense to seek research approval for Epidiolex.

Dr. Guy told O’Shaughnessy’s that he expects the trials to provide a better understanding of “what cannabidiol does in these different children groups, what benefit we can see, and how the results can best be measured.”

The clinical trial process will likely take a number of years to complete. However, Dr. Guy says if the drug shows promise in Phase I trials, the FDA could speed up the transition into Phase III.

GW Pharmaceuticals announced the start of clinical trials of the epilepsy drug in the UK.

Source: O'Shaughnessy's via LeafScience.com

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Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the major compounds found in marijuana, but lacks the high caused by THC. Previous studies suggest that it can be used to combat anxiety and other obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

While research has mostly involved simple animal models, a team led by Dr. Francisco Guimarães of the University of Sao Paulo’s School of Medicine decided to test cannabidiol in rats that were given mCPP – a drug that blocks the effects of traditional OCD treatments.

Interestingly, even at low doses, CBD was able to reverse the obsessive-compulsive behavior caused by mCPP. Published in the journal Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology, the authors conclude that the study adds support to “a possible anti-compulsive effect of CBD.”

Serotonin levels were traditionally thought to play a dominant role in OCD. On the other hand, while researchers are still unsure of how CBD works to reduce obsessive-compulsive symptoms, a number of studies suggest that activation of CB1 receptors may be responsible.

Thus, the authors of the latest study say that both systems may interact to provide relief from the disorder.

“These results suggest that the serotonergic and cannabinoid systems interact to control repetitive behaviors, although the precise nature of this interaction is not clear.”

And it’s not just the CBD in marijuana that seems to help. In a study published in 2011, researchers were able to reduce obsessive-compulsive behavior in rats by treating them with a synthetic cannabinoid similar to THC.

Although human studies still need to be done, scientists believe that cannabinoids could be used to manage OCD in the future.

The study was published ahead of print and sources of funding were not reported

Source: LeafScience.com

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Joint mobilization is a common physiotherapy technique used to treat musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction, especially following surgery. It involves stimulating the joints through passive movements and can be applied to joints in areas such as the ankle or spine.

While the technique has been shown to reduce pain in clinical studies, scientists are still trying to figure out how it works.

Using mouse models of postoperative pain, a team from Brazil, led by Dr. Adair Santos of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, showed for the first time that naturally occurring cannabinoids are involved with the pain-relieving effects of joint mobilization. Their findings were published online in the journal Neuroscience.

“This study represents the first direct demonstration of the role of the endocannabinoid system on the antihyperalgesic effect of ankle joint mobilization.”

By blocking cannabinoid pathways (CB1 and CB2 receptors), the researchers found that the pain-relieving effects of joint mobilization could be reversed. However, pain relief seemed to last longer when the mice were treated with a drug that stopped the breakdown of the body’s own cannabinoids.

According to the authors, the findings are consistent with data from human subjects which show that joint mobilization increases blood levels of anandamide – a natural cannabinoid that mimics the activity of THC.

While more research is necessary, the authors conclude that drugs which inhibit the breakdown of cannabinoids like anandamide could be used to enhance the benefits of joint mobilization in the future.

The study received funding from Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), Fundação de de Amparo à Pesquisa e Inovação do Estado de Santa Catarina (FAPESC), and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Brazil

Source: LeafScience.com

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In a new study, researchers from Israel’s Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science found that CBD and THC helped reverse MS-like diseases in mice by preventing inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. Their results were published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

Study co-author Dr. Ewa Kozela explained how inflammation affects MS in a recent press release.

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response, but in cases like MS it gets out of hand. Our study looks at how compounds isolated from marijuana can be used to regulate inflammation to protect the nervous system and its functions.

The researchers conducted experiments on immune cells isolated from paralyzed mice and found that CBD and THC could inhibit inflammatory responses by acting directly on immune cells. Scientists in the U.S. have achieved similar results using synthetic chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana.

In many countries, marijuana-based treatments, such as Sativex, are already been prescribed to manage symptoms like pain and spasticity (muscle stiffness). However, recent studies seem to indicate that cannabis may even slow the disorder itself.

Though more research needs to be done in humans, Dr. Kozela believes cannabis has significant promise.

When used wisely, cannabis has huge potential. We’re just beginning to understand how it works.

Israel is one of a growing number of countries that have legalized medical marijuana and has conducted extensive research on the medicine. Approximately 12,000 patients have a license to use medical marijuana in the country.

The study received funding from the Dr Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation and the Israeli Ministry for Absorption in Science

Source: LeafScience.com

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Parkinson's is more common among the aging population and is marked by a widespread loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

However, investigators from the Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry at University of Plymouth say that numerous studies have found cannabinoids to protect cells from Parkinson's-related damage.

Cannabinoids such as delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] are neuroprotective in animal and cell culture models of Parkinson's disease.

In the latest study, the team, led by Camille Carrol, Ph.D, identified a mechanism that appears to underlie these benefits.

Using established cell models, Dr. Carrol and colleagues found that THC could activate a specific pathway (PPAR-y) which previous studies have linked to protection in Parkinson's models. Activation of PPAR-ã is believed to increase the viability of cells by boosting mitochondria production.

The findings will appear in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Delta9-THC induces PPARy dependent mitochondrial biogenesis, a mechanism that may be beneficial for the treatment of PD [Parkinson's disease].

The study also helps to explain the results of Dr. Carrol's previous work, which found THC to have a direct effect against cell injury in Parkinson's through its ''neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-apoptotic'' activity.

While current treatments for Parkinson's cannot slow the progression of the disease, researchers have managed to slow the death of dopamine cells in animal models of Parkinson's using both THC and CBD.

But human trials need to be conducted before cannabinoid-based therapies may be used in clinical settings.

Sources of funding were not reported

Source: LeafScience.com

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While marijuana is known to increase appetite, the study was the first to confirm the effectiveness of its main chemical, THC, in patients with the eating disorder.

Anorexia nervosa affects women more often than men and is caused by an irrational fear of gaining weight, leading to restricted food intake and excessive weight loss.

Researchers at the Center for Eating Disorders at Odense University Hospital in Denmark monitored 24 women with severe, long-lasting anorexia nervosa who were given synthetic THC pills (dronabinol) as part of a randomized controlled crossover trial.

The findings were released last month in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Dronabinol therapy was well tolerated. During four weeks of exposure it induced a small but significant weight gain in the absence of severe adverse events.

Patients were split into two groups and received 4 weeks of daily dronabinol and placebo in succession, with a 4 week break for washout in between.

On average, patients gained 0.73kg more during the 4 weeks of dronabinol treatment compared with 4 weeks of receiving placebo. While only a modest improvement, the authors suggest that a longer treatment period might produce more significant benefits.

Side effects were not officially measured, but the authors noted minimal adverse reports. Results from the one year follow-up also confirmed the safety of THC therapy.

Weight records collected up to one year after the end of the trial showed that the participants continued to improve their nutritional status without developing addiction or withdrawal symptoms, suggesting that dronabinol was safe in these patients with longstanding AN [anorexia nervosa].

According to the authors, the latest study was the first in over 30 years to investigate THC’s potential in anorexia nervosa. Previous studies on THC and weight gain have only involved patients suffering from anorexia caused by diseases such as cancer and AIDS.

However, because of the small sample size of the study, the authors say that larger studies are needed before THC can be widely recommended as a treatment for anorexia nervosa.

The study was published ahead of print and supported independently by the Center for Eating Disorders, Department of Endocrinology, Odense University Hospital

Source: LeafScience.com

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The study found that 19% of a group of 184 patients at a Colorado spine center were using marijuana to manage their pain. Among those who used marijuana, 89% of patients said it greatly or moderately relieved their pain and 81% said it was equally or more effective than opiate painkillers.

Study co-author Michael Finn, MD presented the findings at the North American Spine Society’s annual meeting.

While the study wasn’t designed to evaluate whether marijuana was truly effective or not, Dr. Finn told MedPage Today that the results warrant further research.

Given that one in five patients are using it, there is a real need to look at more.

Dr. Finn says the best evidence for marijuana as a painkiller comes from studies on MS and rheumatoid arthritis. However, research on back pain is still lacking.

Most of the patients in the study were suffering from degenerative disc problems, which usually leads to neuropathic pain – a difficult-to-treat pain caused by nerve damage.

On average, patients who used marijuana reported taking it no more than one or two times a day. Smoking was the most popular form of ingestion, followed by oral preparations and using a vaporizer.

83% of those who took marijuana were also taking other medications – mostly painkillers.

Dr. Finn says the next step is to evaluate marijuana based on the type of spine pain and the amount taken. But he’s also concerned about how marijuana may interact with opiates due to the number of patients taking both.

Marijuana and Opiates: Is Both Better?

In 2011, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) published the first human study to investigate the interaction between marijuana and opiate painkillers.

The study included a group of 21 chronic pain sufferers and found that using a combination of vaporized marijuana and opiates (morphine or oxycodone) seemed to offer greater pain relief than either on their own.

Lead author Donald Abrams, MD explains that while patients reported the most relief after taking both treatments, the amount of opiates in the blood stream seemed to decrease when marijuana was present.

This, he suggests, could indicate that opiates and cannabis work synergistically to fight pain.

Dr. Abrams says while a larger study needs to be done to confirm what they found, the current body of evidence leads him to believe that marijuana is effective against many forms of pain.

I’d recommend it to anybody with pain, the research has already been done there.

Dr. Abrams’ previous research also supports the effectiveness of vaporized cannabis in HIV-associated neuropathic pain.

Source: MedPageToday via LeafScience.com

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