LCCC Pot chemicals might inhibit breast tumors, stroke damage.

From the 7-13-98 Dallas Morning News



There may be a silver lining to a cloud of marijuana smoke.

While most medical researchers don't condone recreational marijuana use, marijuana derivatives may prevent brain cell damage in strokes and slow the growth of breast tumors.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health, led by A.J. Hampson, found that cannabidiol, one of a class of marijuana constituents called cannabinoids, is a powerful antioxidant. When tested on rat neurons in a lab dish (no smoking was involved), the substance prevented the death of brain cells during conditions simulating a stroke.

A stroke unleashes a torrent of glutamate, a chemical messenger in the brain, which leads to the formation of toxic oxidizing molecules. Other antioxidants, such as vitamins A and E, already are known to block the damaging effects of excess glutamate, but the researchers found that cannabidiol was even more effective.

Another cannabinoid, commonly known as THC, proved to be an equally effective antioxidant and neuron protector. However, the researchers said, THC's euphoric side effects would not allow doctors to administer it in high doses.

The study was reported last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In a separate study in the same journal, researchers - led by Luciano De Petrocellis of the National Institute for the Chemistry of Biological Systems in Naples, Italy - found that a third cannabinoid called anandamide can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells by interfering with their DNA production cycle. Non-mammary tumor cells were not affected by anandamide.

- Sara Robinson


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