Article by Ricardo Oliveira, Lift
Stem cell research has generated countless waves of enthusiasm and controversy throughout the decades. Now and then news emerges of promising new stem cell techniques, only to be followed by negative or mediocre clinical results. Potential applications have included treating heart disease, eye lesions, diabetes, stroke, spinal cord injury, dementia, neurological degeneration and cancer, but to this day only bone marrow transplants have proved feasible.
The technical problems are manifold, ranging from extraction, culturing and implantation challenges, to safety issues and donor rejection. Perhaps the most prohibitive aspect of all is the deep lack of understanding of how stem cells are actually regulated.
This problem is well illustrated by the surprising finding that endocannabinoids could very well play a decisive role in cell maturation and differentiation.
Two recent preclinical studies (2014, 2016) concluded that cannabidiol (CBD) strongly regulates the proliferation, migration and neurogenesis of mesenchymal stem cells (MCSs). These adult stem cells are able to differentiate into the main types of precursor cells and have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, immune, metabolic and self-renewal properties. As of now, there are over 500 ongoing or concluded clinical trials based on MSCs.
At the turn of the century, researchers found MSCs present in the mouth cavity. Besides being easier to collect, these cells also showed some stronger properties compared to MSCs from other tissues. In light of this knowledge, Dr. Emanuela Mazzon and colleagues became interested in finding out whether oral MCSs were also responsive to CBD.