Research Review Explores Cannabinoids to Treat Heart Conditions

Scientists may be able to manipulate the human endocannabinoid system to create therapeutic cardiovascular benefits, and based on a review by the American Heart Association, medical cannabis may be a tool to help fight cardiovascular disease.

“We wanted to bring attention to the possible life-saving applications of cannabinoids for the treatment of heart conditions through the manipulation of specific cannabinoid-sensitive receptors, and the review article format allowed us to thoroughly and rigorously analyze all the published data from several individual studies in one article,” Andrea Small-Howard, PhD, co-author of the review article and chief science officer for Las Vegas-based GB Sciences, Inc., a cannabis firm involved with biopharmaceutical research and development, wrote in an email.

“The binding of cannabinoids to these cannabinoid receptors triggers specific reactions. Manipulating the reactions at these cannabinoid-sensitive receptors with externally-administered cannabinoids could possibly help people with specific heart conditions. ”

For example, cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) is called a regulator of cellular regeneration and cell death, she said. CB1 can cause both of these outcomes depending on the signals it receives — particularly from internally produced cannabinoids or externally-ingested cannabinoids.

“However, CB1 activity could be altered by administering different degrees and types of cannabinoids. This makes CB1 a significant goal for developing heart disease therapies because of CB1’s participation in several disease processes, including coronary heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure and heart failure. ”

Another receptor called TRPV1 — or the transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V, member 1 — is involved in sensing pain, heat, and chemical and mechanical stimuli. At the center, TRPV1 receptors in some spinal nerves feel both pain and harm to the heart. TRPV1 is also implicated in cardiac hypertrophy, or an enlarged heart, which occurs as heart disease progresses, she said.

“Studies by our co-authors have demonstrated that manipulating TRPV1 receptors can shrink the enlarged hearts in a rodent model of cardiac hypertrophy,” Small-Howard said. “The therapy can also be used to prevent this advanced symptom of cardiovascular disease. ”

Utilizing cannabinoids as a treatment for heart conditions comes with challenges, including as-yet-unknown side effects throughout the body. Researchers also have safety concerns about using synthetic cannabinoids, and struggle with getting active ingredients from plant sources, based on Small-Howard.  

“The shipping procedure is vital to the success of these programs,” she said. “The levels of the cannabinoids in the body have to be tightly controlled over time — and space — to treat heart diseases. It seems unlikely that the full benefits of cannabinoids for the center will be obtained using dispensary-level management like smoking or edibles. True pharmacological delivery methods will probably be necessary to attain the control required over the dosing for heart disease patients. ”

She said further research is required to find out more about how cannabinoid-sensitive receptors lead to cardiovascular disease processes, as well as controlled clinical trials on the use of cannabis plant extracts.

Dr. Joe Goldstrich, a retired cardiologist who’s currently on the board of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, said the review article didn’t go into great detail concerning the cannabinoid he thinks holds the true potential benefits for the heart — cannabidiol (CBD). He said CBD has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which could be significant in treating atherosclerosis, an inflammatory process in which plaque accumulates in the arteries.

Goldstrich said CBD may be useful to the center, “but they don’t really deal with this [in the review]. That is one of the things which I see as the most promising uses of cannabinoids in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, CBD. ”

On the other hand, the cannabinoid THC should be treated with extreme caution in heart patients, he said.

“If you were going to locate a chink in the armor … they often say cannabis has never killed anybody,” Goldstrich said. “Well, that may not be true.

He said THC has the potential to trigger an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, and increase or decrease blood pressure. And in a person with cardiovascular disease, a drop in blood pressure could cause a heart attack, he added.

“It’s a powerful agent in regards to the cardiovascular system and you need to be very careful and cautious,” he said.

Goldstrich said much more research is required to discover the medical potential of cannabis. But for that to occur, marijuana’s national status as a Schedule I controlled substance without a possible medical value has to change, he said.

“We need to de-schedule so we could do clinical trials and meaningful research,” he said. “As long as we have this absurd scheduling of cannabis as Schedule I, we’re living the lie and it’s an obstruction. People who might benefit from the medicine are not able to because we don’t possess the needed research.

Published at Mon, 13 Aug 2018 23:55:38 +0000

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