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Cannabinoids And The Immune System. Of Men, Mice And Cells

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Abstract

The medical use of cannabis or cannabinoid compounds is controversial. Cannabinoids like the Delta(9)-THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or the synthetic derivative Nabilone are available against cancer- and HIV-associated cachexia, nausea and vomiting. Over the last 20 years, the cannabinoid receptors CB(1) and CB(2) and their endogenous ligands have been found. The involvement of this endogenous cannabinoid signalling system in feeding, appetite, pain perception and immunomodulation could be demonstrated using animal and in vitro studies. Thus, the concern about immunosuppressive effects in humans using medical cannabinoid preparations grew. However, up to now most human studies have failed to demonstrate a well-defined and reproducible immunosuppressive cannabinoid-effect. Only the smoking of marijuana showed a significant local immunosuppression of the bactericidal activity of human alveolar macrophages. In animal studies, cannabinoids were identified as potent modulators of cytokine production, causing a shift from Th1 to Th2 cytokines. In consequence, a compromised cellular immunity was observed in these animals, resulting in enhanced tumor growth and reduced immunity to viral infections. In vitro, immunosuppressive effects were shown in all immune cells, but only at high micromolar cannabinoid concentrations not reached under normal clinical conditions. In conclusion, there is no evidence that cannabinoids induce a serious, relevant immunosuppression in humans, with the exception of marijuana-smoking which may affect local broncho-alveolar immunity.

Source: PMID:15221424 [PharmGKB]
 
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