The work, led by scientists at the University of Georgia and the University of California, Irvine, may yield a target for new drug therapies that will completely bypass the current arguments over the use of medical marijuana. In theory, the new research makes it possible to design a pill that will have the same pain relieving effects as smoked marijuana, but through an indirect mechanism that could also reduce unwanted psychoactive side effects and not have the same political baggage.
"There is no prescription or over the counter drug that allows us to manipulate the level of the brain's marijuana-like compounds," said Andrea Hohmann, a neuroscientist in the department of psychology at the University of Georgia and co-author of the paper. "This is the first time anyone has shown that one of the body's naturally occurring cannabinoids, a compound known as 2-AG, has anything to do with pain regulation under natural conditions."
The study was published today in the journal Nature.
Hohmann's co-author, Daniele Piomelli at the University of California-Irvine, is the discoverer of a compound that blocks the breakdown of this marijuana-like compound called 2-AG, and it is that blocking compound, patented by UC-Irvine, that could become the new drug of choice for those suffering from pain or stress conditions. Importantly, it would not require people to smoke marijuana to obtain relief or wrestle with the legal issues surrounding the drug.
Others from UGA involved in the study include faculty members Philip Holmes and Jonathon Crystal and students Richard Suplita, Nathan Bolton and Mark Neely.
Authors from UC-Irvine include Darren Fegley and Regina Mangieri, in addition to Piomelli. Other co-authors are Jocelyn Krey and Michae
University of Georgia