Endocannabinoid Signalling in Multiple Sclerosis

Type of project: Basic/Translational, Nutraceutical/Mind and Body

Principal Investigator: Dr. Quentin Pittman

Institutions Affiliated: University of Calgary

Student: Keiko Chan (UGRAD)

Awards funded to project: 1

Background: Endocannabinoids are a group of chemicals in the brain that help regulate a number of processes, including mood, memory, appetite and immune functions. Cannabinoids may also be found outside the human body; for example, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient of marijuana, is a cannabinoid that exercises its effects on the human body by binding to the brain's endocannabinoid receptors. Anecdotally marijuana has been reported to alleviate Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms. This project explored the role of endocannabinoid signaling in an MS to evaluate if there is scientific validity to these claims.

Findings: The MS mice treated with enhanced levels of anandamide (an endocannabinoid) displayed improved sensorimotor functions (clinical score), and reduced cellular markers of inflammation in the nervous system and reduced immune activity, which are the classic hallmarks of MS.

Implications: Endocannabinoid signaling appears to help moderate the immune activity that contributes to the symptoms of MS, helping validate anecdotal claims. These findings support therapeutic use of marijuana for MS patients, through achieving these effects might be possible through the brain’s normal endocannabinoid system. Further research is required to explore this possibility.