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IACM-Bulletin of 10 June 2007

Science: THC improves appetite and reverses weight loss in AIDS patients

Researchers at the Orlando Immunology Center in Florida investigated the long-term effects of THC (dronabinol) on 117 patients with HIV/AIDS, who lost weight. Subjects who received dronabinol for 3 to 12 months were included in a retrospective analysis. THC was shown to improve appetite and weight and to reduce nausea.

63 per cent of patients maintained or gained weight. In subjects receiving THC for 1 year, the mean weight gain was about 1700 grams. The percentage of patients experiencing loss of appetite decreased significantly from 71 per cent to 26 per cent at 1 month after start of the therapy and continued to decline throughout the trial. The percentage of patients experiencing nausea (38 per cent) decreased consistently from week 2 on.

(Source: Dejesus E, Rodwick BM, Bowers D, Cohen CJ, Pearce D. Use of dronabinol improves appetite and reverses weight loss in HIV/AIDS-infected patients. J Int Assoc Physicians AIDS Care 2007;6(2):95-100.)

Science: Ointment with THC reduces allergic skin reactions in mice

According to animal studies by researchers of the University of Bonn (Germany) the topical administration of THC in an ointment is able to reduce allergic skin reactions. Their research was published in the journal Science on 8 June. Endocannabinoids were shown to play an important role in regulating inflammation processes. Increased endocannabinoid levels reduced inflammatory reactions in the skin of mice, which were made allergic against a certain allergen, while the absence of cannabinoid receptors increased these reactions.

When inflammation occurs the endocannabinoids act like someone stepping on the brakes. They prevent the body from doing too much of a good thing and the immune reaction from getting out of control. This is consistent with the fact that at the beginning of the infection the endocannabinoid concentration increased in the mice. If the skin was treated with a THC solution shortly before and after applying the allergen, a lot less swelling occurred than normal. Ointment like this would probably not have an intoxicating effect.

More at:
in English: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070607171120.htm
in German: www1.uni-bonn.de/pressDB/jsp/pressemitteilungsliste.jsp

(Source: Press release of the University of Bonn of 7 June 2007, Science Daily of 7 June 2007)

News in brief

Italy: THC and nabilone may be prescribed
With a decree by Health Minister Livia Turco, which was published on 28 April 2007, THC (dronabinol) and the THC derivative nabilone were allowed for medical use. The decree does not need the adoption by the parliament, which make the two substances legal for medical use at once. (Source: Associazione per la Cannabis Terapeutica (ACT) of 2 May 2007)

USA: Connecticut
A measure legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis was approved in the state Senate on 1 June by a 23-13 vote. The House of Representatives already approved the measure on 23 May. It is unclear whether Governor M. Jodi Rell, who has said she has mixed feelings about the measure, will sign the bill. If the bill would be signed Connecticut would become the 13th state of the USA to allow the medical use of cannabis. (Source: Associated Press of 1 June 2007)

USA: Vermont
The medical cannabis law of Vermont was expanded. So far, people with life-threatening conditions were allowed to use the drug without fear of prosecution. Now it covers also people with chronic, debilitating conditions. (Source: Associated Press of 1 June 2007)

Science: Epilepsy
In animal studies it was demonstrated that increased levels of anandamide protect from seizures caused by a nerve poison. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors. (Source: Karanian DA, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2007 Jun 1; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Damage of the cerebellum
In a mouse model of cerebellar dysfunction resulting in disturbed motor function THC was shown to be beneficial. The administration of THC reduced deficits in motor coordination, equilibrium and muscular tone. Researchers concluded that cannabinoids "could represent a new field of investigation concerning the treatment of cerebellar ataxic syndrome in humans." (Source: Lorivel T, Hilber P. Behav Brain Res 2007 Apr 24; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Vomiting
Toxins of a certain bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) cause vomiting, which can be combatted by activation of the CB1 receptor, Japanese researchers demonstrated in animal studies. Toxins of this bacteria are the major cause of food poisoning in humans throughout the world. Both antagonism at the 5-HT3 serotonin receptor and activation of the CB1 receptor by cannabinoids were effective in reducing the symptoms. (Source: Hu DL, et al. Cell Microbiol 2007 May 21; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Weight
A group of 451 obese subjects, who received a low fat diet for six weeks were investigated for genetic variants of the CB1 receptor and of the enzyme FAAH, which facilitates the degradation of anandamide. Participants with a certain mutation of the FAAH gene (P129T variant) had a significantly greater decrease in fat concentrations in the blood (triglycerides and cholesterol) as compared to subjects with the usual FAAH gene. Researchers suggest that "downregulation of endocannabinoid tone may contribute to the observed outcome in studied subjects." (Source: Aberle J, et al. Horm Metab Res 2007;39(5):395-7.)

Science: Pregnancy
Animal studies show that endocannbinoids direct brain cells to make proper connections during fetal development. This may be the reason why the use of cannabis during pregnancy may have some negative effects on brain development. (Source: Berghuis P, et al. Science 2007;316(5828):1212-6.)

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