Heart failure is a serious possible consequence of a heart attack or other diseases that damage the heart. It occurs when the heart loses its ability to pump enough blood through the body. Often it develops slowly over years, as the heart gradually loses its pumping ability.

In rats heart failure develops within 12 weeks after a big cardiac infarction. Scientists of the University of Wurzburg in Germany found out that daily application of the synthetic cannabinoid HU-210 after the infarction prevented the drop of blood pressure (left-ventricular systolic pressure) and dysfunction of the arteries (endothelial dysfunction). However, the cannabinoid also increased the filling pressure in the left chamber of the heart (left-ventricular end-diastolic pressure), which may be negative in the long run.

HU-210 activates CB1 receptors as does THC. CB1 receptors are not only found in the brain where they cause the characteristic psychic effects, but also in the heart and many other organs. Dr. Jens Wagner and colleagues treated another group of rats with a selective blocker of the CB1 receptor which reduced the pumping ability of the heart after cardiac infarction.

Researchers concluded that taken together with other results their studies show that endocannabinoids produced by the body itsself excert a protective effect after a heart attack. A commentary by the British Journal of Pharmacology says that "cannabinoids and endocannabinoid systems may therefore present useful targets for therapy following myocardial infarction."

(Sources: Wagner JA, et a. Br J Pharmacol 2003 Apr;138(7):1251-8; Hiley CR, Ford WR. Br J Pharmacol 2003 Apr;138(7):1183-4; press release of the University of Wurzburg of 11 April 2003)


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