Study: Self-Made Human Cannabinoids May Be Key To Treating Stress-Related Disorders

We already know that humans have our own endocannabinoid systems, made to regulate a number of bodily functions with a number of cannabinoid receptors that interact with compounds like THC and CBD in cannabis. 

Brain activity patterns and neural circuits regulated by these cannabinoids derived in the brain were not well known, but new research has revealed our bodies may actually release their own cannabinoid molecules in specific circumstances, independent of external cannabinoid use.

According to a new mice study from Northwestern Medicine published in the journal Cell Reports, the brain’s key emotional center, the amygdala, releases its own cannabinoid molecules under stress. When released, these molecules work to decrease incoming stress alarms from the hippocampus, which controls memory and emotions in the brain.

The study results add further evidence to the assertion that the brain contains innate cannabinoid molecules, key to our body’s natural coping response to stress. Further, the study may indicate that impairments to this endogenous (the body’s own) cannabinoid signaling system in the brain could result in higher susceptibility to developing psychiatric disorders related to stress, like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Still, further research is needed to determine exactly how these mechanisms work in the human brain, said corresponding study author Dr. Sachin Patel.

The Human Body’s Self-Made Cannabinoids and Understanding Stress

“Stress exposure confers risk for the development or exacerbation of psychiatric disorders: from generalized anxiety and major depression to post-traumatic stress disorder,” authors state in the introduction. “Understanding stress-induced molecular-, cellular-, and circuit-level adaptations could provide critical insight into how stress is translated into affective pathology and may reveal novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of stress-related disorders.”

Scientists at Northwestern Medicine used a new protein sensor that can detect the presence of these cannabinoid molecules in real time at specific brain synapses, which show that specific high-frequency patterns of amygdala activity can generate the molecules. Additionally, the sensor showed that mice brains released these molecules in response to several different types of stress.

Scientists also removed the target of these cannabinoids, the cannabinoid receptor type 1, which resulted in a worsened ability to cope with stress and motivational deficits in mice. After scientists removed the receptor target of the endogenous cannabinoids at hippocampal-amygdala synapses, mice adopted more passive and immobile responses to stress. They also had a lower preference to drink sweetened sucrose water after stress exposure.

“Understanding how the brain adapts to stress at the molecular, cellular and circuit level could provide critical insight into how stress is translated into mood disorders and may reveal novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of stress-related disorders,” according to Patel and Lizzie Gilman, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a Northwestern Medicine psychiatrist. 

The endocannabinoid system is one of the leading signaling systems identified as a prominent drug-development candidate for stress-related psychiatric disorders, Patel said. This system is an active, complex cell signaling network, involving a combination of endocannabinoids, enzymes and cannabinoid receptors helping to regulate a number of biological functions — like eating, anxiety, learning, memory, reproduction, metabolism, growth and development — through an array of actions across the nervous system.

This hypothesis is crucial in determining where future research guides this continued conversation, Patel said.

“Determining whether increasing levels of endogenous cannabinoids can be used as potential therapeutics for stress-related disorders is a next logical step from this study and our previous work,” Patel said. “There are ongoing clinical trials in this area that may be able to answer this question in the near future.”

The post Study: Self-Made Human Cannabinoids May Be Key To Treating Stress-Related Disorders appeared first on High Times.

Marijuana Use Triggers Epigenetic Changes: A New Study Reveals

Summary: A recent study has found that both recent and long-term marijuana use is linked to epigenetic changes. The study revealed several DNA methylation markers associated with marijuana use, many of which were found in pathways previously linked to various health disorders.

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Marijuana Use Associated with Epigenetic Changes, Study Finds

A new study published in Molecular Psychiatry has found that both recent and long-term marijuana use is associated with changes in the human epigenome. The study, conducted by Northwestern Medicine, involved analyzing blood samples taken five years apart from over 900 adults who had previously participated in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.

Set, Setting and DNA…

Participants were surveyed for recent marijuana use and estimated cumulative use. DNA methylation profiling was then performed on their blood samples to reveal epigenetic changes associated with marijuana use. DNA methylation is a biological process where methyl groups are added to DNA molecules, altering gene expression.

The study found 22 and 31 DNA methylation markers associated with recent and cumulative marijuana use, respectively, from the first samples and 132 and 16 methylation markers in the second batch of samples. Many of these epigenetic changes were found in pathways previously linked to cellular proliferation, hormone signaling, infections, and mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders.

An end to hemp-derived THC products!

While the study does not establish a causal relationship between marijuana use and epigenetic changes, nor between those epigenetic changes and observed health outcomes, the findings may be useful in future research into the epigenetic effects of marijuana use.

[Source: Medical Xpress].

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