Brain Trauma/Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Brain Trauma ranges from the temporary dysfunction of brain cells to potentially fatal injuries including bleeding, torn tissues and bruising of the brain. Symptoms are varying and can include blurred vision, loss of motor functions, impaired memory, and a wide variety of behavioral and emotional issues.

Currently, there is no effective drug for the treatment of traumatic brain injury. In the U.S., there are nearly 52,000 deaths and roughly 80,000 cases of severe disability related to traumatic brain injury every year.

There are more than 5.3 million people in the U.S. living with disabilities related to traumatic brain injury — numbers far greater than those for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Past

The pharmaceutical Mannitol is a diuretic administered by injection. Other treatments include psychiatric and behavioral therapies, and a procedure known as a decompressive craniectomy.

The Plant

Natural endogenous cannabinoids are produced in the bodies of humans and some animals. Their main function is to bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body of the organism they came from.

A compound the brain manufactures in response to trauma may be useful as a treatment for complications resulting from brain injury, Israeli researchers report.

 

We believe that this compound, that the brain itself produces, may serve as a neuroprotectant agent. – Esther Shohami, a professor in the School of Pharmacy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem

 

The compound, known as 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG), is a cannabinoid, a substance the body produces with a similar structure to chemicals found in the cannabis plant, the source of marijuana. The investigators found 2-AG at 10 times the normal level in the brains of mice 4 hours after a traumatic injury.

What is a Cannabinoid?

Cannabinoids are a class of diverse chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in cells that repress neurotransmitter release in the brain which include cannabinol and the active constituents of cannabis.

The researchers theorize that the compound somehow helps prevent some of the secondary complications associated with brain injury, possibly by reducing the inflammatory response, slowing the production of a toxic brain chemical or boosting the blood supply to the brain immediately after the injury.

The researchers theorize that the compound somehow helps prevent some of the secondary complications associated with brain injury, possibly by reducing the inflammatory response, slowing the production of a toxic brain chemical or boosting the blood supply to the brain immediately after the injury.

To investigate the effects of the compound, the researchers synthesized 2-AG and injected it an hour after brain injury had been induced in mice. The mice were evaluated 1, 4 and 7 days after injury.

 

We found a tremendous improvement in the recovery of the mice,” Shohami said, noting that there was less excess fluid causing swelling in the brain, better recovery of motor function, and fewer dead brain cells and brain tissue.

US neurologists have known about cannabis’ neuroprotective  ‘”powers”  for years.  National Institute of Mental Health scientists in 1998 first touted the ability of natural cannabinoids to stave off  the brain-damaging effects of stroke and acute head trauma.

The neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis are believed to be the reason why cannabinoids protect against the severity and progression of brain injuries. THC is believed to be the cannabinoid with the aforementioned effect.

The mechanisms by which the cannabinoids reduce damage from both toxic and traumatic injury to the brain are not fully understood.

The Patient

Studies have shown that individuals with with a brain injury who also possess a toxicology screening that is THC(+), are more likely to survive than those that are THC(-). In the 2014 study titled Effect of marijuana use on outcomes in traumatic brain injury, UCLA researchers noted the “significant morbidity and mortality” of the condition in general, as well as the mortality rate being “significantly decreased” in the THC(+) group when compared to the THC(-) group. The study ultimately concluded that “a THC(+) screen was independently associated with survival after TBI. A positive THC screen is associated with decreased mortality in adult patients sustaining a TBI.”

A 2013 study from the Oxford journal Cerebral Cortex, researchers discovered that the cannabinoid receptors were responsible the effects of minocycline, a chemical known to protect against inflammation following brain trauma. As the study concluded, “Our findings confirm that minocycline decreases brain damage caused by traumatic brain injury. The activation of cannabinoid receptors is required for the neuroprotective actions of this compound.” Ultimately, THC presents a promising interaction with the delicate nature of brain trauma and demands further research.

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