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IACM-Bulletin of 16 September 2007

Science: Cannabidiol may be effective in preventing bovine spongiforme enzephalopathy (mad cow disease)

According to basic research of scientists of the National Centre for Scientific Research in Valbonne, France, cannabidiol (CBD) may prevent the development of prion diseases, the most known being BSE (bovine spongiforme enzephalopathy), which is often called mad cow disease. It is believed that the BSE may be transmitted to human beings. In humans, it is known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The infectious agent in prion diseases is believed to be a specific type of misfolded protein called prion. Misfolded prion proteins carry the disease between individuals and cause deterioration of the brain. The French researchers reported that the non-psychoactive cannabis constituent CBD inhibited the accumulation of prion proteins in both mouse and sheep prion-infected cells, whereas other cannabinoids were either weak or not effective. Moreover, after infection with mouse scrapie, a prion disease, CBD limited accumulation of the prion protein in the brain and significantly increased the survival time of infected mice. CBD inhibited the nerve damaging effects of prions in a concentration-dependent manner. Researchers noted that CBD may be a promising agent for the treatment of prion diseases.

(Source: Dirikoc S, Priola SA, Marella M, Zsuerger N, Chabry J. Nonpsychoactive cannabidiol prevents prion accumulation and protects neurons against prion toxicity. J Neurosci 2007;27(36):9537-44.)

News in brief

USA: Rhode Island
In August 302 patients and 316 caregivers were enrolled in the medical cannabis program, according to the state Department of Health. A total of 149 physicians in Rhode Island have referred patients to the program. The Health Department has rejected 10 applicants as caregivers because of felony drug convictions, and a caregiver and patient have had their medical-cannabis identity cards revoked after being arrested for having dozens more plants than allowed. Patients in the program may possess up to 12 cannabis plants and 2.5 ounces (about 70 grams) of cannabis. An adult without any felony drug conviction may serve as a “caregiver” for up to 5 patient. (Source: The Providence Journal of 9 September 2007)

Germany: Cannabis extract
The first patient, who was approved the medical use of cannabis by the Federal Institute for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products in early August, received a standardized cannabis extract on 13 September. The extract was manufactured by the company THC Pharm from cannabis of the Dutch company Bedrocan and was supplied for free. The pharmacy of Claudia H., who suffers from multiple sclerosis, prepared a sesame OIL based liquid from it. The future price of the cannabis extract is unknown. (Source: Personal communication of the patient)

USA: Oregon
A federal judge rejected an attempt of the federal government to obtain patient records from Oregon’s state medical cannabis program. In May federal authorities issued subpoenas seeking the information as part of an investigation on some growers in Oregon and Washington. The issue had concerned many patients over the protection of their personal information. The state of Oregon and a medical cannabis clinic moved to quash the subpoenas. The judge said that the state would violate its own privacy laws if it complied. (Source: Associated Press of 4 September 2007)

Switzerland: Conviction
The court of Schaffhausen has imposed a fine to a manufacturer of cannabis extracts. Since many years and with full knowledge by the auhtorities Jeanette Meister produced a cannabis extract, which was taken as drops, for about 100 patients. In the past years the Swiss authorities usually tolerated the medical use of cannabis products. (Source: Report by the Swiss television, personal communication by Jeanette Meister)

Science: Motility of the intestine
Researchers of the University of Munich, Germany, demonstrated in the isolated small intestine of rats that cannabinoids inhibited propulsion of the intestine. They concluded from their experiments that the CB1 receptor is involved in the regulation of small intestinal motility. "Therefore, CB1 receptors are a promising target for the treatment of motility disorders." (Source: Yuece B, et al. Neurogastroenterol Motil 2007;19(9):744-53.)

Science: Cancer in the gut
In experimental studies increased endocannabinoid levels reduced the development of pre-stages of cancer in the mouse intestine. This effect was also achieved by a synthetic cannabinoid (HU-210). (Source: Izzo AA et al. J Mol Med. 2007 Sep 6; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Osteoporosis
In cell experiments the synthetic cannabinoid ajulemic acid suppressed the development of osteoclasts from their precursors, a type of bone cells that reduce bone material and increase bone resorption. Ajulemic acid also induced apoptosis (programmed cell death) in mature osteoclasts. Researchers concluded that ajulemic acid may be a "useful therapy for diseases such as RA [rheumatoid arthritis] and osteoporosis in which bone resorption is a central feature." (Source: George KL, et al. J Cell Physiol. 2007 Sep 4; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

Science: Depression
In an animal model of depression the activation of CB1 receptors in a certain area of the brain (the dorsal hippocampus) resulted in an antidepressant-like response. The Canadian researchers highlighted "the potential importance of changes in the hippocampal endocannabinoid system following stress or antidepressant treatment with respect to the manifestation and/or treatment of depression." (Source: McLaughlin RJ, et al. Behav Pharmacol. 2007 Sep;18(5-6):431-8.)

Science: Schizophrenia and cognition
Australian researchers investigated the relationship between neuropsychological performance and cannabis use in schizophrenia in 60 persons with schizophrenia, of whom 44 were current or former cannabis users, and 17 healthy subjects. The healthy subjects performed better than the schizophrenia group in all cognitive domains. Within the schizophrenia group, a larger proportion of participants with current or former cannabis abuse/dependence demonstrated better performance than those without abuse/dependence on a component of psychomotor speed. Frequency of cannabis use were also positively associated with better neuropsychological performance. Researchers concluded that "cannabis use is associated with enhanced cognitive functioning in schizophrenia." (Source: Coulston CM et al. Schizophr Res. 2007 Sep 6; [Electronic publication ahead of print])

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