Cannabinoids and Autoimmune Diseases

The immune system (IS) is one of the most complex systems in the human body. It is composed of different biological processes and sets of blood cells such as leukocytes (white blood cells), immunoglobulins, lymphocytes (lymphatic cells), macrophages, neutrophils, and many others. This system is responsible for protecting the body from pathogens and cancerous agents. When our IS fails or acts too slowly, pathogens can easily evolve and adapt and stay in our bodies, infecting and destroying our cells.

Autoimmune diseases can affect any part of our body and when this happens, the immune system attacks the healthy cells and infects or destroys them, directly affecting our bodies. The causes that can lead to the development of an autoimmune disease are unknown but is believed to be a product of genetics or other changes that confuse or disrupt the immune system (bacteria, viruses or drugs).

Effects of cannabinoids

  • Modulates macrophage activity
  • Modulates lymphocyte function

Summary

For cannabinoids to be present in the immune system, macrophages and lymphocytes allow the activities to exist.

Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases with Medical Cannabis | Kalapa Clinic

Effects of cannabinoids on autoimmune diseases

Cannabinoids have demonstrated their presence in almost every single part of our bodies thanks to cannabinoid receptors (CB 1 and CB 2). CB 1 receptors have been found in the brain, the lungs, the muscles, the reproductive organs, the hypothalamus, the cerebellum, the hippocampus, the tonsils, the spinal cord, the intestinal gastronomic tract and the vascular system, among others. CB 2 receptors were found in the spleen, the bones, the skin and the glial cells. Furthermore, we found that both CB 1 and CB 2 receptors are present in the immune system, and in the liver, the cerebral bone marrow, the pancreas and the brain stem.

The influence of cannabinoids on the immunological system, has been widely discussed in the last 25 years. Several experimental models have been used (using subjects who abused drugs, were exposed to smoking marijuana or injecting cannabinoids) with experimental animal models and in vitro using cultures of immune cells treated with various cannabinoids. For the most part, these studies suggest that cannabinoids modulate the function of T and B lymphocytes and NK cells and macrophages. [1]

Besides the studies which measure the effects of cannabinoids on immune cells, other reports showed that these substances help to modulate the resistance of the immune system in the face of infectious diseases, particularly in front of diverse infectious agents (the Herpes, the retrovirus, Staphylococci, the Listeria Treponema and Legionella). Finally, the third link important between the immune system of the host and the cannabinoids is that it can have effects on the network of cytokines. The in vivo and in vitro use, determine that cannabinoids modulate the production and the function of cytokines, thus having an influence on the activity of cell for macrophages and lymphocytes T, Th1 and Th2. [2]

Yoonkyung Do, (2016) [3] used Dexanabinol (HU-211), a synthetic psychotropic cannabinoid, for treatment of experimental allergic encephalomyelitis and found a significant reduction of clinical symptoms of the disease in addition to inflammation associated. He found clinical evidence suggesting that THC treatment may benefit patients with multiple sclerosis through its ability to induce apoptosis in dendritic cells that are actively involved in the presentation of autoantigen initiating autoimmunity.
These results are interesting and show that, under certain conditions, cannabinoids may be immunomodulatory, improving signs of disease.

Bibliography for Autoimmune Diseases and Cannabinoids

[1] Klein TW, Friedman H, Specter S. 1998.  Marijuana, immunity and infection. J Neuroimmunol. Mar 15;83(1-2):102-15.

[2] Klein TW, Friedman H, Specter S. 1998. Marijuana, immunity and infection. J Neuroimmunol. Mar 15;83(1-2):102-15.

[3] Yoonkyung Do, Robert J. McKallip, Mitzi Nagarkatti, and Prakash S. Nagarkatti. Activation through Cannabinoid Receptors 1 and 2 on Dendritic Cells Triggers NF-B-Dependent Apoptosis: Novel Role for Endogenous and Exogenous Cannabinoids in Immunoregulation1. J Immunol 2004; 173:2373-2382; doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.173.4.2373

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