Cannabis Could Be Reversing Damage to Arthritic JointsMalik Qasir
Patients believe that marijuana brings arthritis into remission, so they are sponsored by the Arthritis Society to find out if it is real.
There is good news for the 54 million people suffering from arthritis: a study commissioned by The Arthritis Society is exploring ways to develop treatments that use medical cannabis to breakthrough.
Canadian scientist Dr. Jason McDougall was awarded an organization’s Strategic Operating Grant to complete a three-year thesis on cannabis’ ability to effectively heal arthritic joints. McDougall is a pharmacology and anesthesia professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS, and one of the top pain researchers in the world.
The research seeks to find out if cannabis-based medicine is doing more than just softening arthritis pain — what if the damage can possibly be reversed?
“People with arthritis pain are looking for alternatives to boost their quality of life,” said Janet Yale, The Arthritis Society’s president and CEO. “The many important questions concerning medical cannabis and its use need to be addressed through research. Our aim is to provide People with the ability to make informed choices about their treatment options and provide evidence-based advice to their patients to make treatment recommendations. To achieve these goals, this project is an important step.
The study builds on previous work by Chinese scientists who found that not only do arthritic joints contain extremely high CB2 receptor levels, but these sites also indicate a treatment pathway.
What is a receptor for CB2? CB2 is a molecule in the cell wall, in layman’s terms, that serves as a pathway for cannabinoids to enter the cell. It is the way the cell flags helpful molecules that circulate through it during the body’s day-to-day activity.
While the body produces its own endocannabinoids that, through CB2 receptors, can bind and operate on a cell, marijuana-based medicine also has the ability to walk through the same window. Researchers believe this may be the reason why cannabis is effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis-like disorders.
The reasoning is as follows: if cannabis-based medicine can use CB2 receptors to travel inside cells and directly affect the firing of pain signals in the joints, can the medicine also heal joint damage while it is there?
There are many reasons to think so.
A research in the Royal Society B’s Philosophical Transactions journal showed that the endocannabinoid system of the body releases antioxidants that help repair damaged cells when it is activated by external cannabinoids.
And anecdotal evidence, such as the story of a Maine woman whose use of cannabis smoothies has led to so much relief that her symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis have gone into remission, provides further thought-provoking justifications for delving deeper into cannabis treatment options.
What’s more: corporations jump on the bandwagon. Canadian medical cannabis companies Aphria, Inc. and the Peace Naturals Project have pledged $100,000 each to the Arthritis Society to help pay the bill for research by Dr. McDougall. It’s a good sign for patients when the market is bullish about new research.Thetruth is that in controlling the body’s immune system, cannabinoid receptors play a crucial role. What’s not clear is how they’re doing exactly. Autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis do not make much sense from a purely biological perspective. Why would the body, like joint mobility, strike itself or be unable to restore these vital functions? The discovery at inflammatory sites of cannabinoid receptors can provide an answer.
Thanks to a litany of previous work in this field, McDougall’s group already knows that medicines based on marijuana function directly on CB2 sites and reduce inflammation and pain by mediating immune responses at inflammation sites. It means the body searches out for molecules to help it restore its essential elements.
The next step is to see if changes in the drug create different body responses. When scientists could discover new ways of taking up or using drugs from cannabinoid receptors, a door of treatment possibilities could be opened. So much of our current knowledge is in the abstract domain, with most doctors and patients simply expressing appreciation for effective pain treatment— whether it is known or not is a secondary concern.
Nonetheless, as our understanding of the endocannabinoid system of the body expands and we look further into how cannabis-based drugs reduce inflammation and affect nerves, we are likely to discover new ways of treatment — including ways to reverse long-lasting joint arthritis damage. While the work of McDougall is yet to be completed, the results are expected in the near future.