Can medical cannabis help patients with cystic fibrosis?

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Cystic fibrosis is an inherited and fatal metabolic disease. It is caused by the presence of mutations in the genes responsible for salt and water transportation in the cells. This abnormal or undesired condition produces thick secretions instead of thin. There is no known cure but an attempt is made to slow the progression of the disorder. The symptoms depend of the organ that is affected.

Conditions related to cystic fibrosis

Lungs damage results from dense mucus blocking the airways, leading in difficulty breathing, chronic cough, easy bacterial growth and pneumonia. In later stages, changes in the architecture of the tissue origin asthma, coughing up blood, high blood pressure, cardiorespiratory complications and death.

Gastrointestinal tract has also tougher secretions, especially from the pancreas, a body part in charge of producing digestive juices that help break down food. These condensed discharges plug the pancreatic ducts, blocking the digestive enzymes into the intestines and leads to difficulty absorbing nutrients (malabsorption).

Therefore, patients often suffer from osteoporosis, diarrhea or poor growth. In addition, the accumulation of excretory fluids inside the pancreas derives in recurrent abdominal pain, bloating, diabetes, and life-threatening consequences. Additionally, in the liver, there are also solidify secretions, which congest the bile ducts and trigger cirrhosis and death.

In newborns, the first bowel movement may be very dangerous due to the presence of meconium, a viscous material composed of cells, amniotic fluid, bile, water and mucus. This may result in an intestinal obstruction that may need surgery.

Cystic fibrosis and fertility problems

Moreover, cystic fibrosis can cause infertility in both women and men. In women the mucus in the uterus and in the fallopian tubes is more viscous, which stops sperm fecundation. Besides, malnutrition interrupts ovulation and menstruation.

In men spermatozoa do not enter the ejaculate, the main reason is congenital absence of the vas deferens (the ejaculatory ducts of the penis which connects to the testes), but actually also by other mechanisms involved such as abnormal shaped, poor motility or no sperm. About 98% of male cystic fibrosis patients are infertile.

There is no cure for cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is not curable. Therefore, an attempt is made to alleviate the symptoms of those affected and to slow the progression of the disease.

The average life expectancy has raise up to 37.5 years, although many patients live much longer today. Again and again, better access to health care and new medications had develop an improvement in the prognosis. In 1962, the median age of survival was just 10 years. It is now very likely that affected children born after 2000 will be over 50 years old.

What do the studies on medicinal cannabis and cystic fibrosis say?

A study by the Ariel University Center of Samaria in Israel concluded that an imbalance of fatty acids is associated with cystic fibrosis, and because endocannabinoids are derivatives of fatty acids, endocannabinoid system is also is disturbed. Apparently this fail in the organism is the determining factor producing infertility.

Furthermore, a low stimulation of the cannabinoid receptors with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in infancy and adolescence seems to normalize the endocannabinoid system and prevent infertility in adulthood in male mice.

The research has positive and promising conclusions in animals, but not in humans. Particularly the concept relating to pharmaceuticals and environmental agents, may be poor predictor of human reactions. Therefore, the design of clinical trials is needed to confirm if such therapy will produce a similar, if not the same benefits in individuals.

Finally, other cannabinoids should be investigated to treat cystic fibrosis. For example, cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. Its anti-inflammatory effect can prevent inflammation in the lungs or in the digestive tract.

Did you like the post? Give us some feedback! This post has been done based on existent research to the date of publication of the article. Due to the increase in studies based on medical cannabis, the information provided can vary over time and we’ll keep informing in further writings.

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