Federal Research:Science Unlock One More Secret of Marijuana

In most countries, using cannabis is likely to land you in trouble with the law. But the stuff has also inspired a cure for coughing fits.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical found in cannabis, has a well known effect on the brain. But it also latches onto the nerve cells in the upper airways of mammals and short-circuits the signals that cause coughing spasms.

The US government's National Institute of Health (NIH) has been paying the University of California in Oakland, US, to develop a cough cure based on this effect. Oakland has found that a recently discovered relative of THC – arachidonylethanolamide (anandamide) – can have a similar cough-quelling effect, but without also making users high.

Anandamide can be puffed into a person's airways from an aerosol inhaler and latch onto the same nerve cells as THC. But it binds so tightly to the cells that it will not get into the bloodstream.

The drug has so far been tested on rats and guinea pigs, which were given the treatment and then sprayed with pepper. Microphones inside the animal's cages counted the coughs – and they were significantly reduced after the aerosol cure was administered.

Novel treatment for cough
The invention discloses the existence of cannabinoid receptors in the airways, which are functionally linked to inhibition of cough. Locally acting cannabinoid agents can be administered to the airways of a subject to ameliorate cough, without causing the psychoactive effects characteristic of systemically administered cannabinoids. In addition, locally or systemically administered cannabinoid inactivation inhibitors can also be used to ameliorate cough. The present invention also defines conditions under which cannabinoid agents can be administered to produce anti-tussive effects devoid of bronchial constriction.


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