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Cannabinoid Drugs

March 21, 2007

Marijuana-like chemicals in the brain could be key to improving Parkinson’s symptoms.


A two-pronged attack on Parkinson’s disease. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Most Parkinson’s disease medications boost a brain chemical called dopamine. But they might work better if they also boosted marijuana-like brain chemicals. That’s according to a team led by Stanford University psychiatrist Robert Malenka. They improved Parkinson’s symptoms in mice by stimulating both dopamine and endocannabinoids.

ROBERT MALENKA (Stanford University):
So these are substances produced by certain nerve cells in the brain that activate the same receptor that THC does, the active ingredient in marijuana. But the function of these naturally occurring endocannabinoids is clearly very different.

So he says actual marijuana is unlikely to work the same way. Among other things, the endocannabinoids appear to act in concert with dopamine to suppress the unnecessary movement and tremors seen in Parkinson’s.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.