Brain's Cannabis Compound Fights Inflammation

Finding could lead to new treatments for diseases like multiple sclerosis, study says

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THURSDAY, Jan. 5, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- New research details how a cannabis compound produced by the brain helps protect neurons from inflammation.

The finding may aid in the development of new drugs to treat inflammation and brain degeneration caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) and other related disorders.

Researchers from Germany and the United States concluded that the release of the endocannabionid anadamide (AEA) in injured brain tissue may act as a "gatekeeper" and an important "negative feedback loop within the CNS (central nervous system) immune system needed to reduce the extent of the inflammatory response and to limit neurodegenerative immune reactions after primary brain damage."

"Moreover, endocannabinoid signaling strongly suppresses attack of microglial cells on nondamaged neurons, suggesting also a physiological function of the endocannabinoid system in maintaining a protective and healthy CNS microenvironment," the researchers wrote.

The scientists also noted that, "the endocannabinoid system represents a local messenger system between the nervous system and immune system and is obviously involved in the control of immune activation and neuroprotection. Therefore, elucidating the pathology of the endocannabinoid system during neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration might open new avenues of therapeutic interventions in the future."

The findings appear in the Jan. 5 issue of the journal Neuron.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about MS.

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Jan. 4, 2006

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