By: Cecil King
Spanish Rats Cured of Blindness, U.S. Rats Go Blind
A Spanish research team led by Dr. Nicolás Cuenca at the University of Alicante in San Vicente del Raspeig, Spain used a synthetic derivative of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) the main psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant, to reverse vision loss in laboratory rats.
More than 100,000 people in the U.S. suffer from retinal degeneration. It’s a condition known as retinitis pigementosa (RP) where rod photoreceptor cells deteriorate in the retina. Dr. Cuenca’s team genetically bred blind rats with RP in their study.
As the RP disease progresses in human patients they may experience decreased night vision (nyctalopia), loss of the mid-peripheral visual field, loss of visual acuity and color vision, and eventually they will lose sight in the central visual field. There is no cure for RP, but Dr. Cuenca and his team is optimistic about the prospects of curing RP using the chemistry of the cannabis plant’s phytocannabinoids.
The Spanish research team used the THC cannabinoid structure HU-210 first discovered and synthesized in 1988 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. In 1964, this brilliant Israeli scientist discovered and isolated the THC molecule from the cannabis plant.
Nearly thirty years later Dr. Mechoulam’s team discovered the human body’s own cannabinoid, anandamide and identified neurotransmitter receptors (i.e. CB1 and CB2) now known to participate in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, memory, and activation of the body’s immune system.
HU-210 is a derivative of delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8-THC). Delta-8-THC may not be known quite as well in the burgeoning retail cannabis industry as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9-THC) commonly cited with the simple acronym THC. Cannabis plant breeders are constantly striving to increase Delta-9-THC through hybridization sometimes at the cost of reducing other beneficial phytocannabinoids in the cannabis plant.
In addition, HU-210 is also known to induce a strong anti-inflammatory action counteracting the effects of amyloid beta proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease. By activating the body’s cannabinoid receptors, HU-210 effectively stalls cognitive impairment in Alzheimer patients.
Lab rats in the research were injected with a 100 mg/kg daily regimen of the synthetic HU-210 cannabinoid with the outcome of performing statistically better on visual tasks when compared to the group that did not receive treatment. In rats treated with the synthesized THC researchers found 40% more photoreceptors increasing night vision ability and visual acuity.
HU-210 is an analgesic with many of the same effects as natural THC, however it is 100 to 800 times more potent than natural occurring THC from the cannabis plant. It also provides an extended duration of action, a sought-after benefit.
Millions of Alzheimer sufferers and their families along with thousands of people slowly going blind with retinitis pigementosa may look to U.S. research scientists to offer a cure. Yet, no scientist in the U.S. can use HU-210 in research.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) banned HU-210 from importation and placed it on the Schedule 1 list as it has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
The countries of Spain and Israel are examples of what happens when a country loosens its prohibitionist death grip on cannabis.
Once prohibition ends, research and scientific study will begin to accelerate allowing scientists to start laying the groundwork for developing advanced cannabinoid treatments. Missouri’s bio-tech industry could rise to a leadership role in cannabinoid research in the Midwest, but prohibition must end in the Show-Me state.