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Marijuana Might be Effective in Treating Autoimmune Diseases: Study

Jun 03, 2014 05:36 AM EDT

(Photo : REUTERS/Cliff DesPeaux)

University of South Carolina researchers say that marijuana can reduce inflammation and could be effective in treating autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, lupus and colitis.

Marijuana is not an FDA-approved medication. The main ingredient in the drug - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - is approved to lower nausea and vomiting in people exposed to chemotherapy. The compound is also used to fight wasting syndrome in people with AIDS. According to Medline Plus, marijuana use can cause problems with memory, learning, and behavior.

The current study has found a biological mechanism through which the drug can lower the body's immune function.

According to the researchers, environment plays a critical role in shaping genetic expression. Some molecules that are outside the genetic structure can cause alteration in the activity of certain genes. These molecules are called epigenome.

In the present study, researchers wanted to know whether tetrahydrocannabinol - the active ingredient in marijuana - can cause epigenetic changes in DNA.

The research showed that THC works by changing critical molecules of epigenome called histones. The alterations lead to lower inflammation in the body. Reduction in inflammation could help people cope with autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis.

Researchers add that smoking marijuana could be bad for people without any health issues as the drug can lower critical immune response.

The study is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.                                   

Scientists have only begun learning about the advantages and disadvantages of using marijuana. A recent study had found that using the drug at any point in life could lead to poor-quality sleep in later years.

Although the federal government hasn't approved cannabis for medical treatment, certain states have permitted the use of the drug to treat some conditions. Read more about the drug at the National Cancer institute's website.

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