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IACM-Bulletin of 18 December 2011

IACM: Roger Pertwee awarded prestigious medal

Former IACM Chairman and long-standing IACM board member Professor Roger Pertwee, a University of Aberdeen pharmacologist, was awarded a top medal for his outstanding contribution to pharmacology. Roger Pertwee, an internationally recognised cannabinoid scientist, is the 19th recipient of the Wellcome Gold Medal, presented every two years by the British Pharmacological Society. Of the previous Medal recipients, three have been Nobel Prize winners. Roger Pertwee, Professor of Neuropharmacology, said: "I feel delighted and very honoured to have been given this medal by such a prestigious society, especially because it relates to pharmacological achievements, in my case mainly in the area of cannabinoid pharmacology."

Professor Pertwee’s work builds on pharmacological research on phytocannabinoids that he began at Oxford University in 1968 and continued when he moved to Aberdeen in 1974. He has three degrees from the University of Oxford: MA (in biochemistry), D.Phil. (in pharmacology) and D.Sc. (in physiological sciences). He is Professor of Neuropharmacology at the University of Aberdeen, Director of Pharmacology for GW Pharmaceuticals, co-chairman of the International Union of Pharmacology (IUPHAR) Subcommittee on Cannabinoid Receptors, a co-ordinator of the British Pharmacological Society’s Special Interest Group on Cannabinoids, and visiting Professor at the University of Hertfordshire. He has also served as chairman of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM; 2005-2007) and as President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS; 1997-1998; 2007-2008) and is currently ICRS International Secretary and a member of the IACM board of directors. He was the recipient of the 2002 Mechoulam Award “for his outstanding contributions to cannabinoid research.”

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(Source: Press release by the University of Aberdeen of 7 December 2011)

Science: Cannabis influences blood levels of appetite hormones in people with HIV

Scientists of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) of the University of California in San Diego, USA, investigated, among others, the effects of cannabis on appetite hormones in the course of a placebo-controlled trial with HIV patients, who suffered from neuropathic pain. In the original already published clinical study 28 patients had been included to investigate the effects of smoked cannabis on their pain. From these 7 were selected to investigate the blood levels of the hormones leptin, ghrelin, peptide YY and insulin after exposition with cannabis and placebo in a cross-over design. Leptin is known to inhibit appetite, among others by counteracting the effects of the endocannabinoid anandamide. Ghrelin is also considered as a counterpart of leptin. Peptide YY is released in response to feeding and reduces appetite.

Compared to placebo, cannabis administration was associated with significant increases in plasma levels of ghrelin and leptin, and decreases in peptide YY, but did not significantly influence insulin levels. Authors stated that "cannabis-related changes in these hormones had a magnitude similar to what has been observed with food intake over the course of a day in normal volunteers, suggesting physiological relevance." They concluded that "these findings are consistent with modulation of appetite hormones mediated through endogenous cannabinoid receptors, independent of glucose metabolism."

(Source: Riggs PK, Vaida F, Rossi SS, Sorkin LS, Gouaux B, Grant I, Ellis RJ. A pilot study of the effects of cannabis on appetite hormones in HIV-infected adult men. Brain Res. 2011 Nov 7. [in press])

News in brief

Spain: Basque government for legalization
The parliament of the autonomous community Basque Country will approve a law bill in the first few months of 2012 on drug addiction, which will regulate "the growing, sale and consumption of cannabis". Jesus Maria Fernandez from the region's health authority told a new agency: "It is better to regulate than to ban." The leading health official, Rafael Bengoa, said: "We do not want to be prohibitionists". (Source: ANSAmed of 12 December 2011)

USA: Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics
The Seventh National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics will be held on 26-28 April 2012 in Tuscon, Arizona. More information available on the website of Patients Out of Time, www.medicalcannabis.com. (Source: Patients Out of Time)

Science: Interaction
According to research at Hokuriku University in Kanazawa, Japan, several phytocannabinoids (THC, CBN, CBD) reduce the degradation of warfarin and of diclofenac increasing their effect and duration of action. Warfarin is a medicinal drug used to reduce blood clotting and diclofenac reduces pain and inflammation. This cannabinoid effect was due to the inhibition of an enzyme (CYP2C9) in the liver, which is mainly responsible for the degradation of THC and CBD. (Source: Yamaori S, et al. Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2011 Dec 13. [in press])

Science: Alzheimer's disease
According to research at the Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, cannabidiol (CBD) reduces inflammation in the brain caused by amyloid-beta in a rat model of Alzheimer's disease. Amyloid-beta is found in high amounts in nerve cells of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease and is toxic to the cells. CBD also stimulated the formation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, a brain region important for memory. (Source: Esposito G, et al. PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28668.)

Science: Inflammatory bowel disease
According to research at the University of Naples, Italy, cannabidiol (CBD) reduces inflammation in tissue samples from patients with ulcerative colitis and from mice with intestinal inflammation. The activity of CBD was, at least partly, mediated by the so-called PPAR-gamma receptor. Researchers concluded that "CBD indeed unravels a new therapeutic strategy to treat inflammatory bowel diseases." (Source: De Filippis D, et al. PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e28159.)

Science: Liver fibrosis
According to animal research at a hospital in Barcelona, Spain, activation of the CB2 receptor by a synthetic cannabinoid (AM1241) prevents fibrosis progression in a rat model of liver fibrosis. The cannabinoid reduced collagen content and improved cell viability, among others. (Source: Reichenbach V, et al. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2011 Dec 7. [in press])

Science: Appetite
According to research at the University of Reading, UK, a cannabis extract without THC increased food intake in rats. Scientists compared the effects of an extract with THC high and without THC. Both cannabis extracts increased food intake, although the extract without THC did so to a lesser degree. Authors concluded that "at least one non-THC phytocannabinoid induces feeding pattern changes in rats." (Source: Farrimond JA, et al. Behav Pharmacol. 2011 Dec 12. [in press])

Science: Suicide
Researchers of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, USA, investigated the relationship between cannabis use and risk for suicide. They found that social anxiety, that is the involvement of an intense feeling of fear in social situations, influences the relation between daily use status and suicide risk such that daily cannabis users with elevated social anxiety reported the highest suicidality. (Source: Buckner JD, et al. Addict Behav. 2011 Nov 25. [in press])

Science: Inflammatory bowel disease
According to animal research at Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, the activation of the CB1 receptor protects the colon from deleterious effects of stress. Mice were subjected to a stressing environment, which resulted in a greater expression of pro-inflammatory enzymes in the colon and a dysfunction of the colonic barrier against bacteria. Scientists concluded that cannabinoids "might be therapeutically useful in conditions on which intestinal inflammation and barrier dysfunction takes place after exposure to stress." (Source: Zoppi S, et al. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2011 Dec 1. [in press])

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