Your brain on cannabis: 3D image provides the clearest picture yet of the human marijuana receptor

By: Abigail Beall
Source: Daily Mail

When someone smokes cannabis, molecules including Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient – bind to a receptor in their brain.
It is the interaction between the drug and this receptor, called CB1, that makes people feel high after smoking marijuana.
Now researchers have published the clearest picture yet of this receptor and it could help lead the way for the development of safe cannabis-based medicines.

A group of scientists, led by the iHuman Institute of Shanghai Tech University, analysed the high-resolution atomic structure of human cannabinoid receptor, also known as the ‘marijuana receptor’.
The researchers decided to study the receptor to learn more about how the drug interacts with the brain.
‘With marijuana becoming more popular with legislation in the United States, we need to understand how molecules like THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) and the synthetic cannabinoids interact with the receptor, especially since we’re starting to see people show up in emergency rooms when they use synthetic cannabinoids,’ co-author Raymond Stevens, Professor at the iHuman Institute, ShanghaiTech University said.
‘Researchers are fascinated by how you can make changes in THC or synthetic cannabinoids and have such different effects,’ Professor Stevens said.

In the study, published in Cell, the team used a molecule that made the receptor freeze for long enough that they could see its molecular structure.
Then, they performed computer simulations to study how THC and other molecules would interact with the receptor.
‘Now that we finally have the structure of CB1, we can start to understand how these changes to the drug structure can affect the receptor,’ Professor Stevens said.

Therapies derived from cannabis have been used as a medication for obesity in the past.
However, after further study, researchers found the therapeutic molecules could trigger depression, anxiety, and even suicidal tendencies
After this, the drug was taken off the market.
The new findings may help researchers determine why certain medications designed to mimic the medicinal properties of marijuana without the ‘high’ effect might cause side effects.
The research may also help develop a better basis for using cannabis-based medicines.
‘We need to understand how marijuana works in our bodies; it can have both therapeutic potential and recreational use, but cannabinoids can also be very dangerous,’ said Professor Zhi-jie Liu, co-author of the study.
‘By doing both the basic science and understanding how this receptor works, we can then use it to help people in the future.’

Source: Daily Mail
Author: Abigail Beall
Published: October, 24 2016
URL: Daily Mail

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