Patients who suffer from chronic heart failure may be protected by marijuana-activated pathways, according to a recent study.
Investigators from China, Japan and Belgium observed a link between CB1 receptors – pathways in the brain responsible for the marijuana high – and survival rates in mouse models of chronic heart failure.
Mice that had low levels of CB1 receptors were more likely to die and suffered greater heart abnormalities than mice with healthy CB1 levels.
The findings were published in the September issue of the International Journal of Cardiology.
In this study, we found that CB1 deficiency contributed to the exacerbation of chronic cardiac remodeling… revealing a new role of CB1 in pathophysiology of CHF [chronic heart failure].
According to the authors, CB1 receptors have been shown in previous studies to play an important role in a variety of cardiovascular functions.
CB1 activation has been reported to regulate cardiovascular function in hypertension, inhibit the release of neurohormonal factors, improve myocardial energy metabolism, and suppress vasopressin-induced vasoconstriction.
Likewise, the authors note that CB1 stimulation helps to dampen activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is known to exacerbate problems associated with chronic heart failure.
This, they suggest, may explain why mice without CB1 receptors experienced more progressive heart failure than healthy mice.
While CB1 receptors are stimulated by compounds in marijuana like THC, they also interact with natural marijuana-like chemicals produced by the body (endocannabinoids).
Because of this, the authors believe the body’s cannabinoid system may play a broader role in cardiac function – beginning at the earliest stages of life.
Since endogenous cannabinoids and CB1 receptors are present from the early stages of gestation and play a number of vital roles for the developing organism, our results implicated that endogenous cannabinoid release contributes to the heart development in pre or postnatal life.
However, the authors say there are still “many unsolved problems” when it comes to cannabinoids and heart function, with other research providing conflicting results on whether they are truly helpful or harmful.
While further studies will hopefully provide scientists with clearer answers, the authors conclude that “proper” activation of CB1 receptors appears to be protective in chronic heart failure.
No sources of funding were reported