Researchers from the University of South Carolina are exploring the potential of marijuana compounds to fight disease through gene-modifying activity.
While marijuana is believed to have some effect on genes, scientists have only recently begun to investigate how it might apply to medicine.
In the latest study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers at the USC School of Medicine identified a specific set of microRNA (miRNA) molecules that were altered in rats dosed with THC.
miRNA play a role in regulating genes and are believed to contribute to a number of diseases. Out of 609 different miRNAs that the study looked at, 13 appeared to be significantly affected by THC, including one (mir-690) that is strongly linked to inflammatory responses.
The study was led by Prakash Nagarkatti, Ph.D and Mitzi Nagarkatti, Ph.D, who have spent more than a decade investigating the role of THC in autoimmune diseases, reports The State.
The researchers believe THC’s effect on mir-690 expression is especially promising, concluding that further research could lead to new therapies for “inflammatory diseases as well as cancer.”
Dr. Mitzi Nagarkatti elaborated on the findings in an interview with Counsel & Heal:
“While our study identifies the molecular mechanism of immune-altering effects of marijuana, select microRNA identified here could serve as important molecular targets to manipulate MDSC activity in cancer and inflammatory diseases.”
Earlier this year, a group from Italy obtained promising results with three other chemicals in marijuana – cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabidivarin (CBV) – in reducing harmful genetic activity related to a variety of skin disorders, including cancer.
The Italian group also concluded that marijuana’s gene-modifying potential may “extend well-beyond skin disorders” to diseases like multiple sclerosis and other forms of cancer.
The study received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
(Revised on 11/25/13)