Marijuana's THC May Help Transplant Patients by Delaying Rejection

First Posted: Sep 02, 2015 06:08 PM EDT

Marijuana may just be able to help transplant patients. New research reveals that THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana, may delay the rejection of incompatible organs.

The researchers actually tested two groups of mice that were genetically different. They transplanted the skin from one group of mice to the other. All of the mice received incompatible skin, but one group was treated with placebo, while the other group was treated with THC. Then, the scientists watched whether or not the mice rejected the skin graft.

"We are excited to demonstrate for the first time that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in the prolongation of rejection of a foreign graft by suppressing immune response in the recipient," said Mitzi Nagarkatti, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This opens up a new area of research that would lead to better approaches to prevent transplant reject as well as to treat other inflammatory diseases."

Although this latest experiment is promising, more research is needed to identify the beneficial effects of substances contained in marijuana. More specifically, researchers need to focus on the molecular pathways involved.

The latest study points to an important role for the cannabinoid receptors as targets that might be exploited using approaches that refine just how we think about substances derived from marijuana.

The findings could help transplant patients in the future. In addition, they could pave the way to future treatments using marijuana.

The findings are published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

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