Marijuana receptor instrumental for potential anti-anxiety drug

In Neurological, Research Updates and News, Top Stories by David Silverberg

A drug aiming to ease anxiety by triggering the same molecules in the brain that respond to marijuana highs has been developed by scientists at Vanderbilt University.

The news, via a paper posted recently in the journal Nature Neuroscience,  explains how the drug relieves anxiety behaviors by activating natural “endocannabinoids” without gastrointestinal side effects, this report explains. It’s made from chemically modified inhibitors of COX-2 enzyme.

How does this news relate to marijuana? The body creates its own cannabis-like chemicals, called endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids work like messengers between the cells of the body. As we learn from Dr. Leonora Long, “In the brain, endocannabinoids attach to CB1 [ where chemicals in the cannabis plant attach to proteins in the brain] receptors located on neurons to modify the way that the neurons communicate with each other.”

The Vanderbilt team tested it on mice and hopes to begin clinical trials in humans in the next several years.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Mesbah Uddin Khan