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17/08/2007 00:00:00

Israel: Role seen for cannabis in helping to alleviate allergic skin

University of Jerusalem, [RxPG] Administering a substance found in the
cannabis plant can help the body�s natural protective system alleviate
an allergic skin disease (allergic contact dermatitis), an international
group of researchers from Germany, Israel, Italy, Switzerland and the
U.S. has found.

Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by reaction to something that
directly contacts the skin. Many different substances (allergens) can
cause allergic contact dermatitis. Usually these substances cause no
trouble for most people, but if the skin is sensitive or allergic to the
substance, any exposure will produce a rash, which may become very
severe. Allergic contact dermatitis affects about 5 percent of men and
11percent of women in industrialized countries and is one of the leading
causes for occupational diseases.

An article describing the work of the international research group, led
by Dr Andreas Zimmer from the University of Bonn, was published recently
in the journal Science. The article deals with alleviating allergic skin
disease through what is called the endocannabinoid system. Among the
members of the group is Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem School of Pharmacy.

In earlier work, Prof.Mechoulam�s research group at the Hebrew
University isolated two naturally occurring cannabinoid (cannabis-like)
components � one from the brain, named anandamide (from the word ananda,
meaning supreme joy in Sanskrit), and another from the intestines named
2-AG. These two cannabinoids, plus their receptors and various enzymes
that are involved in the cannnabinoids� syntheses and degradations,
comprise the endocannabinoid system. These materials have similar
effects to those of the active components in hashish and marijuana,
produced from the cannabis plant.

Research by groups throughout the world has since shown that the
endocannabinoid system is involved in many physiological processes,
including the protective reaction of the mammalian body to a long list
of neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and

In the article in Science, the researchers detail how the
endocannabinoid system serves as a major regulator of cutaneous (skin)
contact hypersensitivity (CHS) in a mouse model. In this model, they
showed, for example, that mice lacking cannabinoid receptors display
exacerbated inflammatory skin responses to an allergen.

Because the data indicate that enhanced activation of the
endocannabinoid system may function to dampen the CHS response, the
researchers administered cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC), a constituent derived from the cannabis plant, to the
experimental animals. They findings showed that the THC significantly
decreased the allergic reaction in comparison to untreated mice.

In order to better understand the molecular mechanism that may
contribute to the increased CHS in cannabinoid-receptor deficient mice,
the researchers performed a series of experiments which showed that
mouse skin cells produce a specific chemical (a chemokine) which is
involved in the annoying disease reaction. Activation of the
endocannabinoid system in the skin upon exposure to a contact allergen
lowers the allergic responses through modulating the production of this

The results thus clearly show a protective role for the endocannabinoid
system in contact allergy in the skin and suggest that development of
cannabinoid compounds based on elements produced from the cannabis plant
could enhance therapeutic treatment for humans.

Author: RxPG News via UKCIA

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