UMass: Marijuana could help stomach problems

Photo | Grant Welker
Photo | Grant Welker
UMass Medical School

Researchers at UMass Medical School may have found a link between marijuana use and relief of inflammatory bowel disease.
New research released Monday afternoon by the medical school has shown endocannabinoids help control and prevent intestinal inflammation in mice.
The findings, which appear in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, are the first to explain why some marijuana users have reported beneficial effects from cannabis use on conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Now, researchers hope those findings will lead to the development of new medicines to help treat those diseases.
“There’s been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of medical marijuana, but there hasn’t been a lot of science to back it up,” said Beth McCormick, vice chair and professor of microbiology and physiological systems at UMass Medical School, in a press release. “For the first time, we have an understanding of the molecules involved in the process and how endocannabinoids and cannabinoids control inflammation. This gives clinical researchers a new drug target to explore to treat patients that suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, and perhaps other diseases, as well.”
Research shows gut inflammation is regulated by two important processes constantly changing to conditions in the intestines. One process identified in previous research encourages an aggressive immune response destroying dangerous pathogens, but can also damage the lining of the intestine.
The second pathway more relative to the recent study turns off the inflammation response via naturally produced molecules called endocannabinoids, which are very similar to cannabinoid molecules found in marijuana.
If an endocannabinoid isn’t present, inflammation isn’t kept in check and allow immune cells to attack the intestinal lining. McCormick thinks cannabinoid molecules can mimic the effects of the naturally-produced endocannabinoids.
However, other researchers in the study cautioned the research only offers a possible explanation to why pot users have relief from such conditions since the study only evaluated the effect on mice.