Article by Angela Stelmakowich, Growth Op
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have found that injecting mice with a specific synthetic cannabinoid activates the support cells of their spinals cord and brains, thereby helping to reduce essential tremor (ET).
“We discovered that an injection with the cannabinoid WIN55,212-2 into the spinal cord turns on the astrocytes in the spinal cord and prompts them to release the substance adenosine, which subsequently reduces nerve activity and, thus, the undesired shaking,” explains Jean-François Perrier, study leader and an associate professor with the university’s Department of Neuroscience.
Previous research into medical cannabis has focused on the nerve cells, the so-called neurons, according to the university statement.
Although the most recent investigation focused on disease ET, “the cannabinoid might also have a beneficial effect on sclerosis and spinal cord injuries, for example, which also cause involuntary shaking,” Perrier suggests. The spinal cord is responsible for most movements, both voluntary and spontaneous.
Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that can affect almost any part of the body, although most often the hands, resulting in involuntary and rhythmic shaking, according to the Mayo Clinic. While not usually a dangerous condition, it most commonly occurs in people aged 40 and older, “typically worsens over time and can be severe in some people.”
ET-related involuntary shaking, Perrier notes, “can be extremely inhibitory and seriously reduce the patient’s quality of life.”
In a paper, Dr. Adrian Handforth of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System writes “we have confirmed with personal observation worsening of tremor in a patient without marijuana compared to when he was using it. More recently, we observed a patient who had virtual elimination of tremor after taking CBD.”
A double-blind, placebo-control clinical trial out of the University of California, San Diego — which was scheduled to kick off in early 2019 and end in late 2020 — will use cannabis in an oral capsule. Noting that no pharmacological agent has been developed for ET, “patients with ET have long reported tremor benefits with the use of cannabis, though no controlled trials have been conducted,” the statement notes.
As for the University of Copenhagen research, findings with WIN55,212-2 “may prove vital to future research into and treatment with medical cannabis,” notes the university. Considering astrocytes as part of the puzzle “is a completely new approach to understanding the medical effect of cannabis, and it may help improve the treatment of patients suffering from involuntary shaking,” states the press release.
Motor neurons connect the spinal cord and muscles. “Involuntary shaking occurs when the motor neurons send out conflicting signals at the same time. And that is why the researchers have focused on the spinal cord,” the investigators report.