Synthetic Cannabis May Be Miracle Cure for Arthritis

By Paul Gaita 01/30/14

While testing has been limited to lab rats so far, researchers are hopeful a pill will be available to the general public in five to 10 years.

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Researchers in the United Kingdom have reportedly made significant strides in the development of a synthetically produced chemical compound that mimics the pain-relieving effects of cannabis for treatment of osteoarthritis, a painful condition caused by the loss of bone cartilage.

The compound, called JWH133, is not derived from the cannabis plant, but would reproduce the effect of chemical components in cannabis called cannabinoids on cannabinoid 2 receptors (CB2), which are proteins found on the surface of cells in the spinal cord and believed to relieve pain. When tested on rats, the JWH133 compound appeared to significantly reduce the pain and swelling caused by an injection that modeled the effects of osteoarthritis. The synthetic drug would only activate CB2 and not cannabinoid 1 receptors, which are found in the brain and are believed to cause the psychological effects associated with cannabis. “The results are quite encouraging,” said center director Professor David Walsh. “There is the potential that this would be a completely new class of painkiller that would have benefits additional and different to painkillers already on the market.”

So far, testing has been limited to pain behavior and rats, with no concrete evidence as to what effect JWH133 would have on humans. Testing for those results will require another five to ten years before a pill would be available for the general public. But for researchers and medical professionals who treat individuals suffering from osteoarthritis, the study offers a glimmer of hope. “Millions of people are dealing with severe, debilitating pain, and better relief is urgently needed,” said professor Alan Silman, medical director of the Arthritis Research UK Centre at the University of Nottingham. “This research does not support the use of recreational cannabis use. What it does suggest is that there is the potential to develop a synthetic drug that mimics the behavior of cannabinoid receptors without serious side effects.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.