Thursday, April 17, 2003
By Nick Lamb
US scientists have discovered that synthetic cannabinoid molecules could potentially halt the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Drs Ludovic Croxford and Stephen Miller from the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago found that a cannabinoid receptor agonist called R(+)WIN55,212 could suppress the development of MS-like disease in mice when given at the time of initial infection.
Current MS therapies such as interferon-beta reduce relapse rates in a third of patients with relapse-remitting MS, but are ineffective in chronic-progressive disease. There is, therefore, a need for new therapeutic agents in the treatment of MS.
Although previous in vitro studies demonstrated the immunomodulatory effects of cannabinoids, little was known about their immunosuppressive properties in autoimmune diseases such as MS.
Using a mouse model of virus-induced chronic-progressive MS, the researchers showed that injection of R(+)WIN55,212 significantly inhibited levels of interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6, tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma.
These cytokines are important inflammatory mediators in the induction and progression of autoimmune disease in a number of MS-like mouse models of disease, the researchers say.
The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggest that the potent immunosuppressive properties of R(+)WIN55,212 or other cannabinoids may have therapeutic potential in halting disease progression in individuals with MS.
“This study provides preclinical evidence suggesting that cannabinoids may be promising therapeutic agents for treating autoimmune disorders such as MS by exerting potent immunoregulatory effects, in addition to providing symptomatic relief of spasticity, neuropathic pain and bladder dysfunction,” the researchers conclude.
Reference: Croxford and Miller, Journal of Clinical Investigation 2003;111:1231-1240
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