Marijuana has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties, recreational purposes and its psychoactive properties. Many of these properties show important therapeutic potential, including the treatment of kidney diseases.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the most recognised ingredient in marijuana, responsible for the cannabis plant’s psychological and physical effects, has made the use of marijuana in medicine a subject of contentious debate. However, in the last several decades some landmark discoveries on the effects of marijuana have been made.
In an article by Dr Joseph Tam from the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, the author shows how the body’s endocannabinoid system can play a role in the pathogenesis and treatment of kidney diseases.
Over the last several decades, research has revealed that cannabinoids, the compounds found in marijuana, contain a number of unique medical benefits. Scientists were able to identify the THC binding site in the brain and then cloned it, calling it cannabinoid-1 (CB1) receptor. A second cannabinoid receptor in lymophoid tissue was also discovered and was named CB2.
Humans and animals naturally synthesize endocannabinoids (eCBs), chemical compounds that activate the same receptors as (THC). It has been shown the reason cannabis medications work so effectively is because of the endocannabinoid system. The eCB system consists of a series of receptors including CB1 and CB2 that are configured to accept cannabinoids, in particular THC and cannabidiol (CBD). The eCB system is present in the nervous system and organs including the kidneys.
Diseases such as obesity and diabetes directly contribute to the development of renal pathologies. Tam’s review focuses on the role of the eCB system in these diseases as well as in normal kidney function.
The eCB system in the kidneys, controls renal functions with important therapeutic implications. The review shows that in tests carried out on mouse and rat models, CB1 and CB2 play a critical role in renal function and dysfunction. Furthermore, the tests demonstrated the key role endocannabinoid system plays in kidney function and disease. Thus indicating that therapeutics that modulate the activity of CB1 and CB2 could become clinically relevant in the treatment of kidney diseases.
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