This finding, published in the journal Gastroenterology today (Monday 1 August), could bring new hope for the UK's 90,000 - 180,000 sufferers of diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis1 with the possibility that cannabis-derived drugs may help to heal the gut lining, which is damaged during the course of disease.
Both Crohn's and ulcerative colitis - often referred to under the umbrella term of IBD - cause patients' immune systems to go into overdrive, producing inflammation in different areas of the gastrointestinal tract.
This inflammation can cause pain, urgent diarrhoea, severe tiredness and loss of weight, and is most commonly diagnosed in young adults of both sexes between the ages of 15 and 25.
Patients with IBD who are also users of cannabis often report that their symptoms are alleviated following cannabis use, suggesting that the gut is able to respond to some of the molecules found in cannabis.
Investigating this phenomenon, researchers from the University of Bath worked with colleagues at the Royal United Hospital in Bath to look at the interaction of cannabis with specific molecules, known as receptors, found on the surface of cells in the gut.
Examining gut samples from healthy people and IBD patients, the researchers looked at two specific receptors, called CB1 and CB2, which are known to be activated by the presence of molecules found in cannabis.
They discovered that whilst CB1 is present in healthy people, the presence of CB2 increases in IBD patients as their disease progresses.
The researchers believe that the presence of CB2 receptor only during the disease-state may be linked to its known role in suppression of the immune system. In other words, it is part
Contact: Andrew McLaughlin
University of Bath