An international consortium including researchers from Germany, Israel, Italy, Switzerland and the USA has found that taking a substance extracted from the cannabis plant can help the body's natural protective system alleviate the allergic skin disease allergic contact dermatitis.
The disorder is one of the leading causes of occupational disease, and
affects about 5% of men and 11% of women in industrialised countries. It can result when one of many different and normally innocuous substances comes into contact with skin that is sensitive or allergic to it, producing a rash which may become severe.
The research centred on the body's endocannabinoid system, which is involved in many physiological processes, including providing protection against a long list of neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
The endocannabinoid system involves the internal production of two cannabis-like compounds - ananda (Sanskrit for supreme joy) and the less poetic 2-AG - and the various enzymes involved in their production and degradation.
The new research found that the endocannabinoid system exerts a
protective role in allergic skin disease by regulating contact hypersensitivity. Mice lacking cannabinoid receptors displayed exacerbated inflammatory skin responses when exposed to an allergen.
As the active components in marijuana are known to have similar effects to the internally-produced ananda and 2-AG, the researchers
administered cannabis-derived chemicals to the experimental animals and found that these significantly decreased the allergic reaction in comparison to untreated mice.
These results thus clearly suggest that the development of compounds derived from the cannabis plant could potentially enhance therapeutic treatment for humans.
Source: press release by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Read more
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